The Washington Nationals hold a seven-game divisional lead and are shoe-ins for the playoffs. Most folks would probably say they’re the favorite in the entire National League at the moment. But they do have one problem: their closer.
Rafael Soriano blew his second straight save last night and his fifth in his last 21 appearances. He has allowed ten runs in his lat 12 outings. He blew this one by giving up two home runs after coming in with a three-run lead. One of the homers was to Ben Revere of all people. The same Ben Revere who had one previous home run his 470 major league games coming into last night’s contest. The other came off the bat of Carlos Ruiz.
After that performance, manager Matt Williams acknowledged that he may be using a different closer down the stretch. From Chase Hughes of CSNWashington.com:
“We’ll address it, yeah. We need to address it.”
“We’re certainly going to have to take a hard look at it,” Williams said. “It’s not an easy decision. None of them are. But we want to be able to close those games out. Sori understands that, he’s been around the block.”
Soriano’s 6.98 ERA in the second half is awful, and it may be that Matt Thornton, Drew Storen or Tyler Clippard get some turns in the ninth inning in the coming days. Thankfully for the Nats, they have some time and a nice cushion at their disposal as they try to figure things out.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have hired Ben Cherington as the team’s new general manager. They do so after the general manager meetings ended, but better late than never.
Cherington served as GM of the Boston Red Sox for four years, winning the World Series in 2013, but resigned during the 2015 season after Dave Dombrowski was named Boston’s new president of baseball operations. Which was a defacto demotionn for Cherington who, until then, had the final say in baseball decisions. Dombrowski, of course, was fired late in the season this year. Cherington went on to work for the Toronto Blue Jays as a vice president, but was seen as biding his time for another GM position. Now he has one.
Cherington takes over in Pittsburgh for executive vice president and general manager Neal Huntington, who was fired after a 12 years at the helm. Also fired was team president Frank Coonelly. Travis Williams replaced Coonelly recently. While the Pirates experienced a few years of contention under Huntington and Coonelly, they have slid out of contention in recent years as the club has traded away promising players for little return, all while cutting payroll. There’s a very big rebuilding job ahead of Cherington.
The first move he’ll have to make: hire a manager, as the team still hasn’t replaced Clint Hurdle since he was dismissed in the final weekend of the regular season.