WASHINGTON (AP) — Nationals reliever Tyler Clippard mentioned the possibility that he might be tipping off opponents to what pitch is coming.
"When a guy takes a swing like that on a pitch that you think is a good pitch — I looked at the video; it was a pretty good pitch, and he put a really good swing on it — it just makes you wonder," Clippard said.
He was given a slim lead to protect in the eighth inning and wound up giving up a tiebreaking three-run double to Raul Ibanez, which lifted the Los Angeles Angels to a 4-2 victory over Washington on Monday, when Mike Trout and Bryce Harper went a combined 2 for 8 with zero runs or RBIs in their first matchup as opponents.
Washington was ahead 1-0 going into the eighth. But Albert Pujols — who went 0 for 5, staying on 498 homers — reached on the first of shortstop Ian Desmond's two errors in the inning, raising his season total to nine.
Later, Erick Aybar's third hit of the night scored Pujols to even it.
After Clippard (1-2) walked Chris Iannetta to load the bases — "The biggest thing that hurt me," the pitcher called it — the 41-year-old Ibanez doubled to left-center.
Fernando Salas (1-0) won with a hitless seventh.
Joe Smith worked the eighth and Ernesto Frieri pitched the ninth to earn his second save, despite allowing Desmond's leadoff homer. Frieri struck out Denard Span with a man on second to end it.
The 22-year-old Trout, the 2012 AL Rookie of the Year and a two-time MVP runner-up, was 2 for 5 with a pair of singles. The 21-year-old Harper, the 2012 NL rookie honoree, was 0 for 3 with a walk. The two outfielders became pals while teammates in the Arizona Fall League in 2011 and chatted with each other before the game.
Neither recent first-round pick in the amateur draft — Trout was No. 25 overall in 2009, Harper was No. 1 a year later — was much of a factor once play began, though.
Instead, it was the 41-year-old Ibanez, taken in the 36th round in 1992, who came through in a key spot for his fifth club in 19 seasons.
"After he got that hit, we were calling him 'Viejo,' — 'Old' in Spanish," Trout said with a smile.
Said Ibanez: "These guys make me feel young. And I have five kids at home. They're 12 and under, and I'm the biggest kid in the house, really. I feel right at home around these guys who are 22, 24, 25 years old."
All four runs allowed by Clippard were unearned. And he already has allowed six extra-base hits this season.
The changeup has been his go-to choice, but he said, "It is a pitch I'm getting hurt on."
And that's what Ibanez hit to end an 0 for 11 drought.
Nationals manager Matt Williams did not have a lefty reliever ready to go, in anticipation of Ibanez being used there, because he wanted Clippard to get through that inning.
"Clip's been the eighth-inning guy here for a long time," Williams said. "Certainly (his) track record indicates that he's good against lefties. He's just as effective against left-handers as he is right-handers. So I want to stay with him there."
The Nationals had gone ahead 1-0 in the fourth, when Garrett Richards suddenly lost his command. He had two walks, a wild pitch and a hit-by-pitch, plunking Jayson Werth on the left elbow to load the bases with no outs. Adam LaRoche's grounder brought home a run in exchange for an out.
Anthony Rendon then hit a short chopper that first baseman Pujols barehanded and threw home in time to let catcher Chris Iannetta tag Harper for the second out. And Desmond grounded out to end the threat.
Richards gave up only that run and one hit in six innings. Washington's Tyler Roark allowed seven hits in 6 2-3 scoreless innings.
NOTES: Nationals C Wilson Ramos is "right on schedule; maybe a little bit ahead, actually" as he recovers from surgery on a broken bone in his left wrist, Williams said. Ramos went on the disabled list after getting injured on opening day and was expected to be out one to two months.
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