Results tagged ‘ Drew Storen ’
One of the under-the-radar stories during the first seven games of the Nationals road trip has been the reemergence of Drew Storen as a successful member of the Washington bullpen. The 26-year-old right-hander has been nearly unhittable since returning from Triple-A Syracuse on August 16, allowing just one hit and no walks in five scoreless innings, while striking out six batters.
Storen said his resurgence has been sparked by a return to his former delivery, one that helped him earn 43 saves during the 2011 season.
“It feels good to get back to what I’ve always done, to pitch more athletically,” he said. “I’m throwing strikes and I feel like I’m getting on top of the baseball.”
Despite the tough reality of going down to the Minor Leagues, Storen stayed positive and focused on his pitching motion rather than his demotion.
“I treated it like a rehab assignment,” he explained. “I went down there and made it just about getting reps and building muscle memory with my mechanics.”
The return to form has given a lift to manager Davey Johnson’s bullpen, a unit that has been taxed of late thanks to a 15-inning win against the Braves on August 17 and a 13-inning victory over the Chicago Cubs on August 22, all without a break in the schedule.
Storen has found himself in the middle of each of those two victories, posting a perfect, three-strikeout inning in the Atlanta contest and earning his third save of the season with a strong 13th inning in Chicago. Should the Nationals need a closer in Friday night’s contest in Kansas City, Johnson won’t hesitate to call upon Storen, with regular closer Rafael Soriano scheduled to rest after pitching each of the previous three games.
“I think (Drew) made a lot of good adjustments, and he’s making more quality pitches,” Johnson said prior to Friday’s game. “If we get a lead, he’ll be closing this one out tonight. I’m happy with where he’s at, and I know he’s happy.”
8.20.13 – Nationals 4, Cubs 2
Stat of the Game: The Nationals had a season-high 21 men reach base safely (14 hits, seven walks), one more than the 20 they accumulated in a 14-1 drubbing of the Mets on July 28.
Under-the-Radar Performance: Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard did not allow any base runners in the seventh and eighth innings, holding onto the Nats slim 2-1 lead.
It Was Over When: Denard Span, a late-game defensive replacement, ripped a two-out, RBI single in the top of the ninth to give Washington a 4-1 advantage.
Washington Nationals (60-64) vs. Chicago Cubs (54-70)
RHP Dan Haren (7-11, 4.79) vs. LHP Chris Rusin (2-2, 3.06)
Washington takes on the North Siders in the second of a four-game set at Wrigley Field. The Nationals send veteran righty Dan Haren – who leads Nationals starters in wins (three), batting average against (.174) and ERA (2.45) since the All-Star break – against Cubs lefty Chris Rusin. Haren has allowed just three home runs in 44.0 innings since coming off the disabled list, but will face a tough test with the wind blowing out on a warm night in Chicago.
1. Bryce Harper CF
2. Ian Desmond SS
3. Ryan Zimmerman 3B
4. Jayson Werth RF
5. Wilson Ramos C
6. Tyler Moore 1B
7. Anthony Rendon 2B
8. Scott Hairston LF
9. Dan Haren RHP
EXTRA, EXTRA, READ ALL ABOUT IT!
Ian Desmond’s 52 extra-base hits (33 doubles, two triples, 17 home runs) pace all big league shortstops. The 52 XBH are 10 more than any other MLB shortstop (Troy Tulowitzki, 42). Furthermore, with 33 in the bag, Desmond’s next double will establish a new career high (also 33 in 2012).
A WHOLE NEW DREW
Drew Storen has been sharp since his return from his stint at Triple-A Syracuse. The righty pitched an inning in all three games of the Atlanta series, allowing a single hit without a walk or a run scored while striking out five of the 10 batters he has faced.
NOT A MINOR ACCOMPLISHMENT
The Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Nationals are a stunning 43-8 (.843) this season, which began June 21. The .557 overall winning percentage (379-302) posted by the Nationals Minor League system ranks fourth among MLB’s 30 franchises, behind only San Francisco (.569), Houston (.568) and Texas (.560).
Washington Nationals (60-62) vs. Atlanta Braves (75-48)
LHP Gio Gonzalez (7-5, 3.42) vs. RHP Julio Teheran (9-6, 3.08)
A little less than 13 hours after wrapping up a marathon 8-7, 15-inning win, the Nationals will send Gio Gonzalez to the mound in search of a series victory over the Braves. Sunday’s matchup will be Gonzalez’s fourth against Atlanta this season, including his third at Turner Field. The southpaw has stifled the Braves in his last two outings against them, allowing just three runs on nine hits in 14 innings, walking two and striking out 12.
1. Denard Span CF
2. Anthony Rendon 2B
3. Bryce Harper LF
4. Jayson Werth RF
5. Adam LaRoche 1B
6. Ian Desmond SS
7. Chad Tracy 3B
8. Kurt Suzuki C
9. Gio Gonzalez LHP
BULLISH ON THE ‘PEN
Following Stephen Strasburg’s early exit Saturday, the Nationals bullpen fired 14 innings, striking out a Major League record 19 Braves (1971-present). The combination of Tanner Roark, Drew Storen, Craig Stammen and Dan Haren, who earned his first-career save, pitched what amounted to a full game, tallying eye-popping numbers: 9.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 16 K. Meanwhile, rookie left-hander Ian Krol, following a tough loss the previous night, navigated the Nationals through the pressure-packed 10th and 11th innings without allowing a run.
MOORE, TYLER PLEASE
Tyler Moore was recalled from Triple-A Syracuse prior to Saturday night’s game, and went 2-for-4 with a run scored while playing eight innings of flawless defense at first base. During his recent stint with the Chiefs, Moore compiled a .367/.442/.664 slash line, blasting eight home runs and plating a whopping 38 RBI in 33 games. Moore was lifted in the ninth in favor of Adam LaRoche, and the move paid off – albeit six innings later – when LaRoche belted the game-deciding home run.
SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER
Some staggering numerical mementos from Washington’s 15-inning 8-7 win at Turner Field:
0 number of Braves hits with runners in scoring position in 15 innings
1 position players remaining on the bench for either team (Kurt Suzuki)
2 number of career 15th-inning homers hit by Adam LaRoche (also August 24, 2007 for Pittsburgh at Houston)
4 number of extra-inning games between the Braves and Nationals this season
10 minutes first pitch delayed by rain
18 combined number of pitchers to pitch in the game
19 strikeouts notched by Washington’s bullpen
35 number of wins, against just 12 losses, when the Nationals score last in a game
44 combined players used by both clubs
126 plate appearances in the game
319 career appearances for Dan Haren upon earning first career save
329 minutes passed during game’s duration
513 pitches in game (335 strikes)
1413 days since the Nationals last 15-inning game, a 2-1 win over the Braves on 10/4/09. Ian Desmond, Ryan Zimmerman & Tyler Clippard (Nationals) and Adam LaRoche, Brian McCann, Rafael Soriano and Kris Medlen (Braves) also played in that contest.
“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.