Henry Rodriguez has had a tough couple of days.
Despite his manager vowing before — and after — the game that Rodriguez and his 100-MPH fastball was still his closer, that he had the utmost of confidence in the erratic, but dynamic, right-hander, it was left-hander Sean Burnett that sealed the Washington Nationals 8-5 win over the San Diego Padres Monday night, before a soggy and nervous crowd of 19,434 — at least, officially anyway.
Burnett was called upon in a one-out, bases loaded situation set up by three consecutive walks by Rodriguez, who could not command any of his three pitches. Rodriguez threw 21 of them, just nine for strikes. But Burnett got Padres No. 3 hitter Jesus Guzman to tap back to the mound, and the emergency closer threw calmly to home to start a 1-2-3 rally — and game — killing double play.
It was a stark contrast to the conclusion of Sunday night’s game, when Davey Johnson allowed Rodriguez to load the bases on a hit and two walks, then face lefty Joey Votto, as no one warmed in the pen behind him. This time, Johnson did not allow Rodriguez to face that final batter.
“I still haven’t lost confidence in Henry,” Johnson said. “I was probably asking a lot from him, that was his third day in a row going and he threw a lot of pitches. I’ll probably give him off tomorrow, regardless.”
Rodriguez’ issues aside, the Nats had another tough night despite the win. Catcher Sandy Leon, called up Sunday to replace Wilson Ramos, who torn his ACL and will probably miss the season, was injured trying to the block home on a play at the plate. Leon got his right leg caught underneath him when Padres third baseman Chase Headley barreled into him. Leon immediately grabbed at the leg, writhing in pain, and was eventually helped off the field by trainers.
Johnson said after the game Leon will immediately go on the disabled list with a high ankle sprain and will be replaced on the roster by Carlos Maldonado, who’s hitting .224/.288/.403 for Triple-A Syracuse. Watching the replay several times, it will not be surprising if Leon has some sort of ligament damage after they’re able to take an MRI of the injury.
On a much happier note, 19-year old rookie outfielder Bryce Harper hit his first Major League home run, a no doubt about it shot to the batter’s eye in center field. He simply crushed a 2-1 slider from Padres starter Tim Stauffer in the bottom of the third.
The Nats also got homers from Chad Tracy and Xavier Nady in the bottom of the eighth, providing the three-run cushion that Rodriguez put into jeopardy with his wildness.
Nats starter Ross Detwiler had a rough night, allowing five runs, four earned, on seven hits and a walk, striking out three in just five innings.
THE GOOD: Ian Desmond. 3-for-5 with two runs and two RBIs. Craig Stammen. 2 perfect innings with three strikeouts.
THE BAD: Adam LaRoche. 0-for-4 (though he did have an RBI ground out) and seven left on base.
THE UGLY: Hot Rod. Davey may still have confidence in his flamethrower, but he’s probably the only one in NatsTown that does right now.
THE STATS: 11 hits, 5 BBs, 7 Ks. 2-for-11 with RISP, 7 LOB, 1 GIDP. E: Harper (2), Desmond (6).
NEXT GAME: Tuesday at 1:05 against the Padres. Stephen Strasburg (3-1, 1.64) hosts Anthony Bass (1-4, 3.23).