ST. LOUIS -- Somewhat lost Thursday between Michael Morse clubbing two homers and Gio Gonzalez picking up his 21st win was Tyler Clippard's return to form.
Clippard pitched a scoreless eighth inning and struck out two Phillies at Citizens Bank Park, with Nationals manager Davey Johnson remarking Friday that the right-hander "looked like the old Clip."
"It can be like a hitter going on a little slump. Am I going to take him out of the lineup just because he had a couple 0-fers? No. Same way [with Clippard]," Johnson said. "I know what he can do, and I'm going to ask him to do it again. He doesn't have to prove anything to me. He's been great. He's been great not just this year, but last year, too. I haven't lost any confidence at all in him."
Clippard stepped in as Washington's closer when Drew Storen was injured and performed admirably, recording 32 saves, but he had been struggling in September. In 10 outings from Sept. 3 through Wednesday, he'd given up 11 runs in 9 1/3 innings, and opposing batters were hitting .422 off him.
On Thursday, however, he looked more like the pitcher who owned a 1.93 ERA in the first half, not the one with a 5.85 mark since the All-Star break. He struck out Laynce Nix and Darin Ruf, then induced an infield popup from Domonic Brown, all on 15 pitches. Even though he wasn't going to stop going to Clippard in those situations, Johnson believes Clippard's success Thursday should carry over.
"The change in the roles, he's handled that great -- from setting up to closing and now kind of sharing the job, turning it over to Storen," Johnson said. "His numbers the last three or four times had not been good, and sometimes that can wear on you. I certainly haven't lost confidence in him."