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Nationals walking tightrope with Rodriguez closing

The SportsXchange

Again, the Nationals are being tested without their top two closers.

With Drew Storen (bone chip) and Brad Lidge (hernia) on the shelf for at least another few weeks, manager Davey Johnson continues to go with 25-year old Henry Rodriguez.

Rodriguez does have a team-leading nine saves, but he also has a recent slump of allowing walk off home runs.

That did not occur Monday in a 2-1 win over the Phillies, but what did happen was a walk, a single, two wild pitches and only one out recorded amongst the first three hitters in the bottom of the ninth. That has been familiar to several of Rodriguez's outings in shut down opportunities.

Fortunately for Johnson and the Nationals, Sean Burnett came in and was able to get a pair of outs to save the win.

"My heart is still ticking," Johnson said. "Burnett did a heck of a job getting those outs."

But also doing a great job was reliever Craig Stammen, who came in for the seventh and eighth innings and held the Phillies scoreless.

"Stammen did a heck of a job, probably should have stayed with him the way it was going," Johnson said.

Could Stammen be a closer? He is the long reliever from the right side. He more likely he is a setup man and right-hander Tyler Clippard would replace Rodriguez in that role.

"I am going to sleep on it," Johnson said. "I am looking at alternatives. I have confidence in everybody out there. It may be just by committee and who is rested at the time."

He said it could be someone who pitches the ninth inning instead of the eighth. The points to setup man Clippard.

With a win, Johnson should sleep a little easier.
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