Nationals make Tyler Clippard, Drew Storen co-closers

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Why mess with what’s working? Tyler Clippard is 32-for-35 saving games since taking over as the Nationals’ closer in late May. However, manager Davey Johnson announced Friday that he’d have Clippard and Drew Storen share save opportunities going forward.

“The fact is, I told [pitching coach Steve McCatty] that I have confidence in both of them closing,” Johnson said. “And depending on the rest situation, or depending on what I think is the matchup, either one of them could be going eighth, the other one going ninth.”

Storen saved 43 games for the Nationals last year and was slated to keep the job this season, but he missed the first half because of elbow problems. Since returning on July 19, he has a 2.59 ERA in 24 1/3 innings. He picked up his third save in three opportunities on Thursday.

Clippard, meanwhile, has struggled some of late, giving up runs in four of his last seven appearances. He hasn’t taken any blown saves during that span, but he has lost twice. His season ERA stands at 3.22.

Given than Storen and Clippard are both right-handers and there’s no platoon advantage to be gained by playing matchups, sticking with the status quo would seem to make sense here. Alternatively, if they think Storen is the better bet of the two, just make him the closer. It’s probably better that both pitchers actually know their roles than that they spend the sixth and seventh innings wondering who is going to get the call first.

Video: J.D. Martinez hits league-tying 23rd home run

Seattle Mariners v Boston Red Sox
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The Red Sox and Mariners left nothing on the table Friday night, going head-to-head in a series opener that eventually ended 14-10 in the Sox’ favor. Led by Steven Wright and Wade LeBlanc — neither of whom made it past the fifth inning — the teams combined for 34 hits and four home runs, including two moonshots from Seattle’s Nelson Cruz and a five-run rally that gave Boston the edge in the seventh.

In the sixth inning, however, the Red Sox were still scrambling to make up a four-run deficit. Left fielder J.D. Martinez cut it in half with one swing, pouncing on an 89.5-mph fastball from Seattle right-hander Nick Vincent and posting it to dead center field for a two-run shot.

The 427-foot blast was Martinez’s 23rd of the season, tying Mike Trout for the most home runs in the league this year. While he still has a ways to go before eclipsing the career-best 45-HR mark he set in 2017, he’s off to a strong start this season: Entering Friday’s game, the 30-year-old slugger was batting .315/.386/.623 with a 1.009 OPS and AL-leading 55 RBI in 308 PA. He finished Friday’s game 4-for-5 with five RBI, just one triple shy of hitting for the cycle.

Heading into the All-Star Break, both Martinez and Trout still have some competition for the home run title. Jose Ramirez is sitting at 22 homers, while Nelson Cruz and Khris Davis are tied at 20 apiece.