All-Star victory caps great day for Clippard
Nationals reliever faces one batter, notches win over AL
PHOENIX -- Early Tuesday afternoon, it didn't hit Nationals right-hander Tyler Clippard that he was an All-Star. In fact, he said, it may not sink in until his baseball career is over.
One thing is certain: Clippard had the time of his life during the All-Star festivities. He received a lot of love from his peers and collected his share of memorabilia. For example, he received a jersey that had all the All-Stars' signatures on it.
The best part of all was getting into the Midsummer Classic later that night and becoming the winning pitcher as the National League defeated the American League, 5-1, at Chase Field. It marked the second straight year a Washington pitcher won an All-Star Game. Matt Capps, now with the Twins, won last year's game after pitching one-third of an inning.
Before Tuesday's game, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he was going to use Clippard if he needed to get out of a jam. And that came in the fourth inning with runners on first and second, two outs and the AL leading, 1-0.
On an 0-2 fastball, Adrian Beltre stepped to the plate and singled to left field, but Astros outfielder Hunter Pence threw out Jose Bautista at the plate to end the inning.
As the NL was coming off the field, Clippard said to Pence, "Great job. Thank you."
"I'll probably give [Pence] a hug later," Clippard said. "I was glad to get into a game. I got it over quick. I did enough to get the win. How about that?
"I was trying to go up and in. It didn't get up high enough. I got it in, but he hit it hard enough to Hunter, so he could make a play at the plate and we got him."
Clippard was finished for the night, replaced the next inning by Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw.
"What a way to do it. That is probably the definition of a vulture win," Clippard said. "It was fun and a great experience. It's something I will never forget. This game was the coolest part, for sure. Getting to battle with all these guys and pitching in a game like this, everything about it is something I will never forget."
Clippard was thrilled that his family, especially his father, Bob, was able to attend the All-Star festivities. His family was able to participate in the Red Carpet show presented by Chevrolet.
"We have been through a lot as a family," Clippard said. "It's such like a joyous occasion. Everyone is happy right now. It's fun to be a part of that. To hear the emotion in their voice, things like that are very meaningful."
The Clippards aren't the only ones who are thrilled for Tyler. The Nats have been the beneficiaries of his success. Clippard has been a special player since he joined the club for good during the summer of 2009. This year, he is having his best season in the big leagues. In 41 games, Clippard has a 1.75 ERA and leads the Major Leagues in holds with 23.
Clippard now heads to Atlanta as the Nationals face Braves in a three-game series at Turner Field. With a record of 46-46, eight games behind the Braves in the Wild Card race, the Nationals have been one of biggest surprises during the first half. Clippard expects Washington to continue to surprise people after the All-Star break.
"We were playing pretty good. We lost some games we should have won, but you could say that about any team throughout the season," Clippard said. "We are kind of in a good spot, we feel, as a club. There could be some moves made, but us as players don't really worry about that stuff. We are all on the same page right now. We know what to expect. We are looking to do some things in the second half."
To catch the Braves, according to Clippard, the Nationals have to continue to pitch well and improve on offense. The Nats are 10th in the Majors in pitching, but are near the bottom in offense.
"We have been throwing the ball real good," Clippard said. "I think we need to continue to throw the ball good. We need timely pitching, too, because the bats aren't going to be there every day. That's not the kind of club we are. We realize that. But when we get into a situation where it's a 1-0 or 2-0 game in a late innings, we need to hold those leads. That's important for the type of club that we are to do that.
"But, yeah, if we get a little more production out of our offense, it's going to help, for sure."
Clippard was able to get enough offense to pick up the win Tuesday. So who is next in line on Washington's staff to get the win in next year's All-Star Game? Clippard didn't think twice.
"[Drew] Storen. Storen is getting it next year," Clippard said.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.