Soriano records 28th save in unconvincing fashion

By Daniel Popper

WASHINGTON – Rafael Soriano earned his third save in as many nights Friday against the Pirates at Nationals Park, but the performance was not without some drama.

Pittsburgh rallied against the right-hander in the ninth, bringing one run home on a Pedro Alvarez single before the third hit of the inning put the tying run on third base with two outs. Soriano then forced Josh Harrison into a game-ending popup that catcher Wilson Ramos secured behind the plate, clinching the closer’s 28th save of the season.

Nonetheless, the outing marked the second time in the last three games that Soriano entered a contest with a two-run lead and surrendered a run on three hits. On Wednesday, he gave up a leadoff home run to Travis d’Arnaud of the Mets in the final inning but rebounded to close the game out thanks to a botched bunt from Juan Lagares.

Still, despite Soriano’s recent scuffles — his ERA has risen to above 2.00 for the first time all season — manager Matt Williams sees no reason to panic.

“It is part of the season, it’s part of things that pitchers go through,” Williams said. “It doesn’t mean that next time out, he isn’t going to go 1-2-3. We’ve got confidence in him that he can do that, and he’s certainly got confidence in himself that he can do that. So the next time it presents itself, he’ll have the ball again.”

Wednesday was Soriano’s first appearance in four days. After the lackluster performance, the closer commented on how he needs a more consistent workload and to pitch at least every two or three days.

Fast-forward to Friday, which was Soriano’s third straight night on the mound. He still struggled, though, leaving mistakes up in the zone to a number of Pirates’ hitters.

So the question becomes: is too much or too little rest the actual issue?

“He’s got the job done for us all year,” Williams said. “That’s three and a row for him, so that’s a pretty heavy workload, but he got through it tonight. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow.”

1 Comment

Despite Matt Williams love affair with Soriano it is becoming more and more clear that Soriano’s most effective days are behind him. Just how long can the Nationals rely of the lucky save chances like the one that happened last night against the Pirates. Phil Wood also pointed out that he is not much of a team player in his constant and absolute refusal to back up on plays to 1st base. Arrogance in refusing to play his position combined with his rapidly receding talent on the mound are not much to recommend him for the post season. Indeed by the time October comes the Nats will literally be playing Russian Roulette with him on the mound against first rate playoff teams. It is sad and almost criminal that Tyler Clippard is only a set up man. If the Nats are looking to add drama in the 9th innings to come in September they will certainly get it by continuing with Soriano as a closer.

Harold G. Pavel

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