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Henry Rodriguez was electric during the seventh inning yesterday.
Rodriguez's sheer dominance of the Braves in the top of the seventh had the ballpark buzzing throughout and the had just about everyone in the Nationals' clubhouse in awe, even an hour later.
"I've never seen anything like it," closer Drew Storen said. "It was unfair. That's a tough act to follow. One-oh-one every pitch? You've got to tip your cap. We gave him a standing O in the bullpen, and I don't think anybody's doing that for anyone else."
Truth be told, Storen was exaggerating a bit about Rodriguez thrown 101 mph every pitch. But not that much.
Here are all of Rodriguez's 11 pitches in the inning, with velocity and result...
BATTER: JASON HEYWARD
1: 99 mph, strike looking
2: 99 mph, strike looking
3: 85 mph, ball
4: 100 mph, strikeout swinging
BATTER: DAVID ROSS
5: 100 mph, strike swinging
6: 101 mph, strike swinging
7: 101 mph, strikeout on fouled bunt attempt
BATTER: JACK WILSON
8: 100 mph, ball
9: 101 mph, strike swinging
10: 101 mph, strike looking
11: 88 mph, strikeout looking
That's an 11-pitch inning, nine of them strikes, seven of them reaching triple digits (all consecutive). Wow.
"Lights out," shortstop Ian Desmond said. "I think the same thing that everybody else thought: When you get a catcher to bunt on you 0-2, with nobody on base, that's a pretty good sign that your stuff is working that day."
Indeed, perhaps the most incredible pitch of the inning was Rodriguez's 0-2 fastball to Ross, a backup catcher at the plate with one out in the seventh inning, his team trailing 1-0 and nobody on base. And he tried to bunt?
"I was surprised," Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos said. "Because 0-2 ... I guess I'm surprised because no men on base. I don't know what he's doing in that situation."
What he was doing was waving a metaphorical white flag.
As incredible as the final pitch to Ross was, there was just as much excitement in the clubhouse over Rodriguez's final pitch of the inning: an 88-mph slider that left Wilson frozen in his tracks.
"It was like a Nintendo pitch," Storen said. "Create a player, and max him out."
Rodriguez has simultaneously been the most enthralling and most aggravating pitcher on the Nationals staff this season. He's got 70 strikeouts in only 64 2/3 innings, but he's also got 45 walks and a staggering 14 wild pitches (tops in the NL even though he's the only reliever on the leader board).
Performances like they saw yesterday, though, are why the Nationals acquired Rodriguez (along with Corey Brown) from the Athletics last winter for Josh Willingham. And they aren't about to give up on a guy who for one magical inning can dominate a playoff contender and leave everybody in the ballpark with jaws dropped.
The Nats can only hope Rodriguez finds a level of consistency next season that would allow him to join Tyler Clippard and Storen as a truly dominant bullpen trio.
"It makes us feel really good," Clippard said, "and the other teams really scared."