Why did Davey Johnson use Tyler Clippard in the ninth inning?

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Entering the bottom of the 9th inning with a 7-2 lead on Saturday night against the Royals, the Nationals had a 99.3% chance of winning the game, according to Fangraphs.  Why, then, did Davey Johnson think it was necessary to use his best reliever, Tyler Clippard?

The odds of any reliever giving up 5 runs in one inning is very low.  Indeed, if there are any relievers in the current Nationals bullpen incapable of preserving a 7-2 lead in the 9th inning, we have a serious problem.

Tyler Clippard has been the Nationals most effective relief pitcher this year.  In 58 appearances prior to Saturday night, Clippard only allowed 13 earned runs and 48 base runners.  He struck out 59 batters.  Quite simply, a team’s best relievers should be used in the most important situations.  Clippard is the Nationals best reliever, and he should be saved for high-leverage situations.  Using Clippard in a game where a victory is 99.3% certain is bad bullpen management.

Additionally, Clippard had pitched in 3 of the 4 previous games prior to Saturday night.  Wasting him in the 9th inning of a 7-2 victory may have serious consequences.  Now that he’s pitched 4 times in 5 days, he may not be available for the final game against the Royals on Sunday.  Considering the Nationals inability to score runs this season, a close game is a pretty likely possibility.  Now, the team’s best reliever may be unavailable.

Davey Johnson is misusing his bullpen.  I’m hoping it doesn’t cost the Nationals in the win column.


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