Results tagged ‘ Drew Storen ’
“I feel like we were just destined to win that game, some way, somehow.”
Those words came from Dan Haren, maybe the most unlikely of heroes from a game full of them, saturated with storylines from both dugouts.
Saturday night was supposed to be about Bryce Harper, about unwritten baseball rules, about the rising tension between the Nationals and the Braves as they battled through the dog days of summer. But amidst a bizarre game in which two of the best young pitchers in baseball each failed to escape the second inning, it became a story of a true team effort in which 21 of the 25 men on the Washington roster played a role. In the end, the Nationals prevailed after 15 innings and nearly five-and-a-half hours, by a final of 8-7.
While any 15-inning affair will naturally be referred to most commonly as a marathon, this division rivalry felt more like a long distance relay race, with one reliever handing the baton to the next, over and over again. In all, 18 different pitchers were used by the two clubs – nine each – including the starters, each club’s entire seven-man bullpen, and two more starters to close it out.
Along the way, Washington set a number of records. The 15 innings matched the longest game in Nationals history, equaling the 2009 season finale, a 2-1 win over none other than the Braves at Turner Field. The five-hour, 29-minute affair was the lengthiest in terms of time elapsed. Meanwhile, the 19 strikeouts compiled by the Washington bullpen shattered the all-time Major League mark, at least as far back as anyone can be sure. The records for such a stat only date back to 1971, to which point the highest total ever compiled by a relief staff in a single game was 16. But considering the way the sport had evolved, with increased strikeout rates and higher bullpen usage, it’s hard to imagine any club amassing a comparable total in any previous era.
Following Stephen Strasburg’s second-inning ejection, Tanner Roark was the first Nationals reliever to answer the call, entering a 4-2 game and providing four innings of one-hit, scoreless relief with six strikeouts. Drew Storen tossed a perfect seventh inning, striking out the side. Ian Krol rebounded from a tough Friday night outing to put up two more scoreless frames in extra innings, and Craig Stammen followed a two-inning stint Friday night with a 55-pitch, three-inning scoreless stretch to get the game to the 15th inning.
Of course, in the midst of the impressive relief outings, the Braves tied the game in the ninth, making all of the extra pomp and circumstance necessary in the first place. But neither team would score again until the 15th inning, when Adam LaRoche punished a hanging breaking ball from Kris Medlen for a moonshot to right field, the ball searing through the mist at Turner Field before coming to rest in the bleachers, a dozen rows deep, giving the Nationals the lead once more.
That left the game to Haren, summoned from the bullpen to make his first relief appearance since 2004. Haren had thrown his routine side work prior to the game, tossing 30-35 pitches, which he followed with an upper body workout. But when Strasburg’s evening was cut short, several hours earlier, he offered up his services, should they be needed. They were.
“I’m proud of him for even doing that,” said Randy Knorr, who took over as manager when Davey Johnson was ejected along with Strasburg. “A lot of guys wouldn’t even have gone down there after throwing a bullpen.”
Haren allowed a single, but that was all, striking out Jordan Schafer flailing at a splitter, his bat sent cartwheeling towards the Braves dugout to end the game. That netted Haren first Major League save, and only his second as a professional, the other coming more than 12 years prior as a member of the New Jersey Cardinals of the Short-season New York Penn League on July 15, 2001 against the Lowell Spinners.
“I’m only supposed to do media every five days,” Haren joked as the huddle approached his locker after 1 a.m. local time.
In the end, the Nationals went home with a big road victory in Atlanta. Their reward. Both clubs get a whopping 12 hours and 46 minutes between the final out and the first pitch on Sunday afternoon. Haren summed it up best when all was said and done.
“Five-hour games are fine when you win them. But when you lose them, they really stink.”
Having spent the past 44 games on the disabled list, Wilson Ramos’ return to the Nationals lineup on Thursday couldn’t have come soon enough, and the catcher wasted no time reasserting himself.
Ramos plated a career-high five RBI (surpassing his previous high of three) capped by a three-run bomb in the seventh that broke open a tie game and helped lift the Nationals to an 8-5 Independence Day win over the Milwaukee Brewers.
“That pitching must have been awful tough down at Potomac,” quipped Davey Johnson, alluding to Ramos’ struggles to regain his offensive prowess during his rehab stint at High-A Potomac prior to his breakout game Thursday.
While it was just one swing, one can only imagine how therapeutic it must have been for Ramos, watching the ball sail over the visitor’s bullpen in left field, landing in a sea of red-clad fans.
“It was a great moment,” Ramos said. “I have to keep working. A lot’s happened in my career. A lot of bad moments, a lot of good moments. I have to learn from the bad moments and enjoy the good moments.”
With the well-documented turmoil of his past two years, including a twice-strained hamstring this season, it would have been easy to allow for some degree of rust in his first game action since May 15. No such pardons were necessary on Thursday, however. Instead, in his first pressure situation of the day, Ramos poked a sixth-inning, bases-loaded single up the middle to score Adam LaRoche and Jayson Werth.
An even bigger opportunity presented itself again just an inning later. After taking a slider for ball one and waiting out a mound conference, Ramos drove Brandon Kintzler’s second slider over the Brewers bullpen, putting Washington ahead for good.
It was the kind of moment that has been eluding the Nationals for most of the year, a clutch, late-game instant that carries the team to victory. But it wasn’t the kind of moment that’s new to Ramos. Just last season, he drilled a bases-loaded, walk-off single up the middle in an 11-inning, 4-3 win against the Phillies to open NATITUDE Weekend. On June 22, 2011, Ramos capped a five-run ninth inning with a three-run walk-off homer for a 6-5 win over the Mariners, one of the most dramatic triumphs in franchise history.
“You see what the guy has gone through, more than anybody can imagine,” Drew Storen said. “That’s why we were excited to have him back, because he comes up in those big spots. He does big things.”
If his first game back forebears any of what he might achieve this season, Ramos could be the missing piece to the Nationals puzzle as they look to take off in the season’s second half.
6.28.13 – Nationals 6, Mets 4
Stat of the Game: The Nationals matched their biggest deficit overcome on the season, rebounding from a 4-1 hole with just six outs to go.
Under-the-Radar Performance: Ian Desmond broke up Matt Harvey’s perfect game with a home run in the fifth and put Washington ahead for good with an RBI-double in the ninth.
It Was Over When: Kurt Suzuki‘s sac fly added an insurance run and Drew Storen slammed the door with a 1-2-3 ninth for his second save of the year.
For six innings Wednesday night, as they have much of the season to date, the Nationals struggled to find any sort of offensive rhythm against Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick. And then, slowly, piece by piece, the offense collected itself, as the bats awakened just in the nick of time to force extra innings and steal a win to end a long, grinding road trip.
The bats lay dormant, unable to generate anything more than Adam LaRoche‘s second-inning single through six frames. Meanwhile, two batters in, the Phillies were out to a 2-0 lead on the strength of Michael Young’s two-run home run. Gio Gonzalez settled in after that, as he did not allow a hit the rest of the way through seven innings of work. He notched 11 strikeouts, the most he’s ever recorded as a member of the Nationals, matching his career high.
Finally, a solid, patient at-bat by Ryan Zimmerman led to a one-out walk in the seventh, and he stood at second base with two outs and Jayson Werth coming to the plate. The former Phillie reached out and rapped a single to right field to score the run and cut the lead in half, a big clutch hit in a season sorely needing more of them.
After a quiet eighth frame, the Nationals would be tasked with trying to deliver Jonathan Papelbon his second blown save in three nights after entering the series a perfect 13-for-13 on the season. Denard Span, whose job in most any situation – but especially this one – is to get on base, did just that, chopping an infield single. He remained at first until, with two outs, LaRoche walked, bringing up Werth once more. He, of the “be ready to eat some face” comment following the tough loss the night before, ripped another two-out, RBI-single, this one to left, as Span flew around third, scoring the tying run without a throw. But, as had been the case Monday night in Papelbon’s blown save on Chad Tracy‘s pinch-hit, two-out, two-strike home run, the Nationals were unable to push ahead. Ian Desmond struck out, stranding runners at the corners, spiking his helmet in frustration.
“After the at-bat against Papelbon, I’m just thinking, ‘Give me one more chance,’” Desmond said after the game.
The Washington bullpen conspired to afford Desmond and the Nationals that opportunity. Tyler Clippard fired an inning and two thirds of scoreless ball, giving way to Ian Krol, who got Dominic Brown – Monday’s hero – to end the bottom of the ninth. After the Nationals offense threatened, but failed to score, in the top of the 10th, Drew Storen fanned a pair and put up a zero in the bottom half, taking the game to the 11th inning.
With one out, it was again Zimmerman who got the wheels turning, lacing a low liner to the left-center field wall for a double. That prompted Phillies manager Charlie Manuel and the Phillies to play matchup, deciding to intentionally walk LaRoche to get to the man with both of Washington’s RBI, Werth. An unintentional walk later, the bases were loaded, Desmond stepping to the plate with the second chance he begged for earlier. After falling behind 0-2, the shortstop worked the count back to 2-2, where he annihilated a hanging slider from Michael Stutes into the seats beyond the left-center field wall.
“I did the same thing I always do,” said Desmond when asked about the blast after the game. “See the white ball, put the barrel on it.”
Before Desmond had reached the jubilant visitors dugout, rivers of Phillies fans had already begun streaming for the exits, an actualized shifting of the tides. Rafael Soriano quietly shut the door, and the Nationals returned to Washington with an enormous win and a positive end to their road trip, thanks to perhaps the biggest swing of the season from their shortstop.
“He’s quite a character,” said Nationals skipper Davey Johnson of Desmond. “He’s got a lot of big hits for us in the past.”
It was Desmond’s first career grand slam (and Washington’s first of the season), but he has had plenty of success with the bases loaded, as it was his 17th hit in 40 such at-bats, good for a .425 batting average. The timing and importance of the blast hearkened back to Desmond’s game-winner on May 2, 2012, when he swung a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 victory with a two-out, walk-off blast off Arizona’s J.J. Putz.
“That’s like how I remember it from last year,” said catcher Kurt Suzuki of the feeling in the dugout after the blast. “It was pretty exciting.”
If Wednesday night’s series finale in Philadelphia turns out to be a microcosm of the 2013 Nationals season, recounting what has happened to date and foreshadowing what lies ahead, we are all in for a nerve-fraying, heart-stopping, hair-graying ride before the year is done. But if the ending portends anything of the future, it will have been worth the ride.
A couple weeks ago, when discussing the options for taking over the injured Ross Detwiler’s spot in the rotation, Davey Johnson opted not to go with Craig Stammen, despite the righty’s excellent numbers early in the season. In fact, it was precisely because of those numbers that Johnson felt he needed Stammen in case of emergency long relief, or if the team needed quality extra-inning work. And while one never wishes for such situations to arise, when one did Friday night in a crucial series opener in Atlanta, Stammen was there to answer the call.
Did he ever.
The right-hander came on with the Nationals ahead 2-1 in the bottom of the third and set down all 12 Braves batters he faced, three by strikeout, to bridge the gap to the back of the bullpen. Tyler Clippard, Drew Storen and Rafael Soriano tossed an inning each to finish out a 3-2 victory, one that seemed a stretch to believe after Stephen Strasburg departed with tightness in his back after just two frames.
“He was unbelievable, he did a great job,” said Johnson of Stammen’s clutch performance. “I thought he could go about 50 pitches, and he did. He probably could have gone further…It was a big win. We needed it bad.”
While it’s hard to call any single outcome in a 162-game season a must-win, Friday night may well have been the most significant single matchup on the schedule so far this season. Coming off a pair of disappointing setbacks in Baltimore, the Nationals sat with even .500 record, trailing the first-place Braves by 5.5 games in the division. With Strasburg on the mound against up-and-down rookie starter Julio Teheran, Washington appeared to have the advantage in the pitching matchup heading into the evening. When that assumed advantage was suddenly thrown out the window, it was Stammen who led the charge, as the team came together to gut out a huge win.
“I try to stick to my routine of taking it one pitch at a time,” explained Stammen, acknowledging the overused phrase, but emphasizing the importance of that mindset. “It may sound cliché, but that’s really the only way you can look at it. If you put your heart and soul into every pitch, every time, sooner or later you look up and you’re through three or four innings.”
Stammen’s four innings gave the offense enough time to piece together another run, just enough to squeak out a victory. All three runs came via productive outs, and all three were set up thanks to hustle plays. Leading off both the first and sixth innings, Denard Span stretched for an extra base after lacing a ball into the right-field corner, notching a pair of triples. In each case he went on to score easily on a deep sacrifice fly to right field by Steve Lombardozzi. The only other Washington tally came after Roger Bernadina and Danny Espinosa each singled with one out in the second, The Shark racing around to third base after Espinosa’s chopper bounced through the right side of the infield. Kurt Suzuki followed with a grounder to third, but busted hard out of the box, beating out the back end of a potential inning-ending, 5-4-3 double play, allowing Bernadina to score.
Together, the bullpen and lineup showed the kind of hustle and effort it will take to win games with Bryce Harper, Wilson Ramos and Jayson Werth still out of the lineup. Ultimately, Friday night’s game was one of sacrifice – Stammen’s well-earned tourniquet victory, Lombardozzi’s pair of run-scoring fly balls – of giving up whatever was needed to get the victory. It was epitomized by Stammen’s attitude afterward, one which the Nationals will need to embrace as they slowly get back to full strength.
“I’ll be here tomorrow with my cleats on,” he said, despite throwing 49 pitches over his four perfect frames. “If it goes 20 innings, I’m sure I can flip something up there.”
After making the Nationals as a non-roster invitee in 2012, Chad Tracy took no time at all to make his presence felt. On April 7 in Chicago, he came in with the bases loaded, one out, and the Nats down a run in the top of the eighth, and promptly doubled home a pair to lead the club to victory. Thus began the Goon Squad, Washington’s fearsome and versatile bench, with its leader, the veteran Tracy.
Just as he did early in 2012, Tracy provided the Goon Squad’s biggest moment to date on Friday night. After the Nationals surrendered a two-run lead in the ninth inning in San Diego, the tide seemed to have turned against them. But with two outs in the top of the 10th, Tracy turned on a hanging, 1-1 change-up out of the right hand of Huston Street, depositing it over the right field wall at Petco Park for a go-ahead home run to put the Nationals back ahead for good, 6-5.
“He’s a really good hitter,” said Davey Johnson of Tracy. “Last year he started fast, this year he started slow. But (the home run) makes up for anything he’s done in the past.”
There is something about being at the right place at the right time that often defines success for a bench player like Tracy. But Friday night’s heroics were the continuation of a stunning trend, one which indicates the Padres are always the right opponent for the leader of the Goon Squad. With his blast off Street, each of Tracy’s last three pinch-homers have now come against the Padres. And of the seven he has hit in his career, five have come against San Diego.
Other Nationals like Adam LaRoche and Ryan Zimmerman have both hit well against the Padres in their careers as well, each notching double-digit home run totals. But both track records pale in comparison to Tracy’s.
Meanwhile, Drew Storen survived a Padres rally in the bottom of the frame to notch his first save of the season, and the Cardiac Nats won the kind of gut-wrenching game on which they built their reputation last season. After a couple of close calls in low-scoring games in Los Angeles, the breakthrough may have meant just one win, but it may also have opened the door for a return of the Cardiac Nats, the team that went 27-21 in one-run games and 13-7 in a league-high 20 extra-inning affairs in 2012. This year’s club (7-3, 2-1) hasn’t seen nearly as many of the same opportunities, but a strong showing from the Goon Squad may change that in a hurry.
5.17.13 – Nationals 6, Padres 5 (10 innings)
Stat of the Game: Chad Tracy launched his first home run of the season, a pinch-blast in the 10th to lift Washington to a 6-5 victory.
Under-the-Radar Performance: Adam LaRoche‘s second two-homer game of the season and 21st of his career extended his hit streak to a career-best 14 games.
It Was Over When: Drew Storen stranded the tying run at third and winning run at first in the bottom of the 10th to lock down his first save of the year.
So far, so good in 2013. Washington is off to a 3-0 start for the first time in five seasons and stands alone atop the NL East. And before you go belittling the fact that the only team they’ve beaten so far is the Marlins, think back for a moment to the beginning of last year.
The Nationals also got off to a good start in 2012, but they were unable to fully put away any of their early season opponents, setting themselves up to sweep a series 10 times before finally sealing the deal. Of course, considering the litany of injuries the team weathered, particularly through the season’s first half, it was impressive that the Nationals were ever in a position to be able to sweep anyone in the first place.
Just look back at the roster in the beginning of the 2012 season. Mark DeRosa was the Opening Day left fielder. Brad Lidge was the closer. Bryce Harper was still in Syracuse. Michael Morse and Drew Storen did not come back to Washington until mid-season, while watching Ian Desmond, Wilson Ramos, Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman all hit the disabled list before their return.
The story has been much different so far this year (knock on wood). The Opening Day lineup most fans envisioned when they saw the club for the first time this year at NatsFest was the actual Opening Day lineup on the field in D.C. on April 1. With the young and untested Marlins first up on the schedule, a sweep was almost expected, as unfair as that may be.
And yet, the Nats lived up to that expectation. At the end of four days of play, they are the lone remaining undefeated team in Major League Baseball.
Of course, the season is long, and will no doubt take its twists and turns, with players missing time here and there for the various bumps and bruises that come with the territory of a 162-game slate. The jokes about 162-0 will soon be forgotten, whenever the team drops its first contest of the year.
Washington encounters its first true test tonight, facing off with the defending National League Central Champion Reds in Cincinnati. With a lineup of mashers, especially from the left side, it seems unlikely that the Nationals will be able to count on allowing only a single earned run over three games in this series. It will be a tough first assignment for Dan Haren, but one that he no doubt welcomes as he – and the Nats – hit the road healthy here at the outset of the season.
Miami Marlins (0-0) vs. Washington Nationals (0-0)
RHP Ricky Nolasco (0-0) vs. RHP Stephen Strasburg (0-0)
The defending National League East Champion Washington Nationals open the 2013 season today with a three-game set against division rival Miami in The District. This season marks the ninth since the return of baseball to Washington and the sixth played at Nationals Park.
1. Span CF
2. Werth RF
3. Harper LF
4. Zimmerman 3B
5. LaRoche 1B
6. Desmond SS
7. Espinosa 2B
8. Ramos C
9. Strasburg RHP
OPENING DAY STRASBURG
For the second year in a row, Stephen Strasburg will toe the rubber on Opening Day for Washington. Last year, Strasburg fired 7.0 innings of five-hit, one-run ball, walking one while striking out five at Wrigley Field against the Cubs. He did not factor in the decision, as the Nationals came from behind with a run in the eighth and another in the ninth for a season-opening, 2-1 victory.
NO APRIL FOOLS
The Nationals notched a 14-8 record in April last year, tying Atlanta and St. Louis for most victories in the National League in the opening month of the season. During that stretch, the pitching staff compiled a 2.33 team ERA, best in the Major Leagues.
Washington and Miami split their 18 games against one another 9-9 last season, but the Nationals took six of the nine meetings in The District. On August 5, Stephen Strasburg beat Ricky Nolasco in a matchup of the same starters, and Drew Storen earned the save in a 4-1 Nationals victory.
Jordan Zimmermann was dominant against the defending American League Champion Detroit Tigers on Monday, setting down the final 18 batters he faced after allowing a leadoff single to begin the game. And as impressive as he was in dismantling one of the best offenses in baseball, he accomplished a feat even more rare off the field just last week.
As they have done each of the last three years, a collection of Nationals players, coaches and staff joined together for a par three scramble challenge on the Doral course near Space Coast Stadium last Monday night. With the off day on Tuesday, the tradition allowed for the group to come together off the field and bond over some friendly competition.
If you didn’t already know, the Nationals feature a number of very good golfers, mostly members of the pitching staff, particularly the bullpen. Each group of four on the course had a designated A, B, C and D player, based on respective skill. Zimmermann, whose golf score hovers around his fastball – somewhere in the mid-90s, according to the pitcher – was the “C” player on Tyler Clippard’s squad, which began the day on the third hole, just over 100 yards long. And while Clippard may have been the designated “A” player, it didn’t take long for Zimmermann to establish himself as the ringer of the team.
“First swing of the day,” explained Zimmermann. “I pulled my pitching wedge, spun it back, and it went in.”
A hole-in-one on his very first swing, and style points to boot with the backspin.
Along with Clippard, Zimmermann’s team included Syracuse Chiefs hitting coach and “B” player Troy Gingrich, as well as Nationals strength and conditioning coach John Philbin, holding down the “D” player spot. Together, they combined to go 11 under par over 18 holes, forcing a playoff.
On the first playoff hole, Zimmermann again stepped up to finish what he had so masterfully started.
“He buried a 20-footer to win,” said Clippard, whose team knocked off the foursome of Drew Storen, Rick Eckstein, Harrisburg Senators pitching coach Paul Menhart and Kurt Suzuki.
It was both Clippard and Zimmermann’s first win in the tournament’s three-year history, but Philbin’s second consecutive win. Simply known as “Coach” to most in the clubhouse, they gave him a hard time for backing into his success again.
“Somehow Coach always finds his way onto the winning team,” said Zimmermann, who certainly earned the right to make the joke.
The par three scramble challenge will no doubt remain an annual tradition, as it is one of the only times all year the entire team is able to convene outside of the ballpark, just relax, and enjoy each other’s company.
“I wish we could do it once a week,” said Clippard of the event.
Of course, winning probably helps.