by Chris Lingebach

WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — Rafael Soriano earned his fifth blown save of the season, temporarily reversing his team’s fate in the bottom of the ninth after giving up three runs and the Nationals’ 4-2 lead to the Pittsburgh Pirates Sunday night.

The Nationals would battle back in the bottom half of the inning, scoring one run to even the score at 5, setting the stage for an extra innings standoff (which the Nats would win), all of which could have been avoided had Soriano protected the 2-run lead.

It’s the third such instance the veteran closer has given up one run or more on multiple hits in his last four save opportunities, as he’s seemingly developing a penchant for heart attack moments in games.

Cal Ripken Jr., appearing with the Sports Junkies on 106.7 The Fan Monday morning, says Soriano’s career track record should afford him some leeway to dig himself out of the hole he’s burrowed for himself, but not too much.

“Unless you have an ample replacement, he has a history of being really good, too,” Ripken said, asked of how much rope to give Soriano. “I think I would start to back him off, and minimize, maybe get him a one-out save or two-out save, instead of always putting him in to get the whole inning.”

“Minimize that, kind of get him on track again,” he said.

Some possible options for manager Matt Williams, should he follow Ripken’s advice, are Tyler Clippard, who has experience working in the ninth — earning 32 saves of fill-in work in 2012 — and of course, the team’s former closer, Drew Storen, who amassed 52 career saves before blowing Game 5 of the NLDS in 2012.

Another option is to go without a designated closer, as Grant Paulsen has suggested, instead responding situationally to ninth-inning save opportunities.

Whatever the answer to Soriano’s increasing liability, Williams may want to find it soon with the postseason only 40 games away.

Soriano still has 29 saves on the season.

What’s your guess?


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