Kelley The New Closer?
On a night where Jonathan Papelbon was unavailable, the Nats needed someone to turn to get the final six outs after Scherzer left the game, Oliver Perez got the first out in the eighth inning when he struck out Javier Baez swinging. Then, Dusty Baker gave the ball to Shawn Kelley.
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Once Kelley came in the game, the strikeouts kept coming. In the 1.2 innings that he threw, the 32-year-old right-hander struck out four of the six batters he faced, which was a season-high.
Out of the four strikeouts that he had, only three of them were swinging strikeouts. The big question now is what role Kelley will have now that Papelbon was placed on the disabled list earlier today.
Even though Kelley has just five saves in his career, he does have closer experience. In 27 appearances this season, teams have hit only .181 against him and left-handers are 3-for-20 (.150) with one RBI.
Right now, Kelley has 34 strikeouts, which is the second most of any Nats’ reliever (three behind Rivero). But, he does lead the team in strikeouts per nine innings among relievers (13.1). Baker is one of those managers who will be creative with his bullpen, but if Papelbon was out for a while, I would tend to give Kelley the first chance at closing games.