The Washington Nationals managed to pull out a 10th inning win in their home opener on Thursday, when Ryan Zimmerman scored on a two-out walk-off wild pitch. But the Nats really should have closed the door in the ninth, when Brad Lidge was handed a two-run lead. Starter Gio Gonzalez and setup man Tyler Clippard had tossed eight shutout innings — allowing just three total hits to the Reds, walking no one, striking out nine — and then the ball was handed to Lidge ... who promptly gave up a pair of hits, a pair of walks, and a pair of runs.
Lidge received no help from his defense, we should note (there was a play to be made here), but bad things occasionally happen when batters make hard contact. The blown save was Lidge's first of the season. To his credit, he hadn't allowed a run in his two previous appearances. Still, he could have taken another step toward the circle of trust on Thursday. Instead, he moved a bit further away.
We've told this story before, of course. Same pitcher, different city. If you've been chasing saves early in the season, you've already had Henry Rodriguez on your radar, and possibly on your roster. Rodriguez hasn't been perfect this year either, but he throws a million miles an hour (OK, 98-100) and he pitched a clean frame on Wednesday, striking out two. It would hardly be a shock if he saw the next save chance.
Tyler Clippard is obviously a badass (0.84 WHIP, 10.60 K/9 in 2011), but manager Davey Johnson seems to prefer keeping him in his current role. (Key quote, from late-March: "It's hard to replace what [Clippard] does. What he did last year is at least as important, if not more important, than your closer.") So we're left hoping for either a Lidge revival — you can't drop him yet, alas — or a Rodriguez surge. Feel free to place your bets in comments...