In his first full major league season, Ryan Mattheus established himself as a stellar seventh-inning option, going 5-3 with a 2.85 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and 2.16 K/BB in 66.1 innings. He massively exceeded his ZiPS projections, which were a 4.09 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, and 1.50 K/BB in only 33.0 innings.
Oct 7, 2012; St. Louis, MO, USA; Washington Nationals relief pitcher Ryan Mattheus (52) reacts after getting a double play ball to end the St. Louis Cardinals rally during the seventh inning of the 2012 NLDS at Busch Stadium. The Nationals won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE
Despite allowing two runs in his second outing of the season and saddling himself with a 13.50 ERA, Mattheus quickly settled down, with just a 1.45 ERA in his next 17 appearances, from April 11th to May 20th. However, Mattheus then suffered an injury and was out until June 17th, but continued his stellar performance regardless. From April 19th to July 17th, Mattheus allowed only two earned runs in 26 IP, including none in the month of June, good for a 0.69 ERA. But immediately after this stretch, Mattheus hit a bit of a rough patch, allowing seven earned runs in just 4.1 IP over four appearances and raising his season ERA by 91%, from 1.69 to 3.22. However, as was his theme all season, he rebounded and got right back to shutting down hitters. He allowed only one earned run during all of August, and despite allowing seven runs in September, finished the season strong, with three scoreless appearances against the Phillies and Cardinals as the Nationals locked up the division crown.
In the postseason, Mattheus’s shining moment was escaping a no-out, bases loaded jam in Game 1 using only two pitches in a critical spot, as the Nats trailed by one. He got cleanup hitter Allen Craig to ground into a fielder’s choice, resulting in an out at home, and then got NL MVP candidate Yadier Molina to ground into a double play, marking the first time any pitcher has recorded three outs with just two pitches in the postseason. The Nats would go on to score two runs in the bottom of that inning, eventually crediting Mattheus with the win. He pitched another scoreless inning in a Nats loss in Game 2 before allowing two runs on three hits and a walk in the Nats’ 8-0 loss in Game 3. He would not appear for the rest of the season.
Season Highlight: His two-pitch, three-out, game-saving appearance in Game 1 of the NLDS.
Next Year: Mattheus, despite being 28 years old, is still not even arbitration eligible until 2015, and cannot become a free agent until 2018, when he will be 34. Look for Mattheus to remain a solid contributor to the Nats’ bullpen for years to come.