Results tagged ‘ Drew Storen ’

Feeling Bullish About The ‘Pen

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The Nationals made it official on Thursday, inking right-handed reliever Rafael Soriano to a two-year deal with a vesting option for the 2015 season. The 33-year-old Dominican hurler has eclipsed 40 saves in two of the past three seasons, including 42 last year for the American League East Champion New York Yankees.

Soriano gives the Nationals arguably the strongest bullpen in the Major Leagues.

Soriano gives the Nationals arguably the strongest bullpen in the Major Leagues.

Soriano fortifies an already strong Nationals bullpen, joining Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen to form a trio as strong as any in the league to shut down opponents at the end of ballgames. All three have served as closers at different points in their respective careers. In fact, average each pitcher’s most recent season in the closer’s role (Soriano in ’12, Clippard in ’12, Storen in ’11) and you get a 2.92 ERA, 9.5 K/9.0 IP and 39 saves, at an 89 percent conversion rate.

Most any team would jump at the opportunity to sign that player to pitch the most important single inning of the game. Your Nationals have three of them.

The Soriano signing was certainly the biggest player news of the week, but it wasn’t the only development out of The District. In addition to the deal that netted three minor leaguers from Oakland including the return of A.J.Cole, the Nationals also announced that pitchers and catchers will report to Spring Training on February 12, with position players on the 15th and the first workout coming two days after that. Washington also signed five players to Minor League deals, and released its Non-roster Invitee list for Major League Spring Training, including five more players already under contract. Here are the names:

Minor League Deals/Non-roster Invitees:

LHP Fernando Abad

LHP Bill Bray

LHP Brandon Mann

RHP Ross Ohlendorf

INF Will Rhymes

Additional Non-roster Invitees:

LHP Pat McCoy

RHP Tanner Roark

C Carlos Maldonado

INF Matt Skole

INF Zach Walters

Some fans may remember Maldonado from his short stint in D.C. in 2012 and Bray from his 19 appearances with Washington back in 2006 before pitching for the Reds the past six seasons. Abad and Ohlendorf both have big league time as recently as last year, and the latter is no stranger to D.C. – the Princeton grad interned for the Department of Agriculture back in the winter following the 2009 season. Meanwhile, Skole and Walters should also be names familiar to those who follow the Nationals farm system, as we have profiled each of them, the former taking home organizational Minor League Player of the Year honors.

As we reach the middle of January, the roster is starting to take shape. Of course, that should come as no surprise – pitchers and catchers report in just 26 days.

2012 Player Review: Ryan Mattheus

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The Washington Nationals enjoyed unprecedented success in 2012, recording the best record in Major League Baseball. The team relied on the contributions of many different players, whom we will catalogue throughout the offseason as we look ahead to the 2013 campaign. Today, we make the call to the bullpen for right-hander Ryan Mattheus.

While the Nationals staff was largely praised for the effectiveness of the starting rotation last year, it would be remiss to overlook the contributions of the bullpen, which was as solid and deep as any in the National League. Although Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen are more well-known on the national stage, there is another hurler lurking in the ’pen, one who continued to grow and solidify his role in Davey Johnson’s late-game mix: Ryan Mattheus.

Ryan Mattheus quietly turned in a terrific season in Washington's bullpen.

Ryan Mattheus quietly turned in a terrific season in Washington’s bullpen.

The right-hander posted a remarkably similar ERA (2.85) to that of his rookie season (2.81), but made some significant strides in improving his peripheral numbers. A groundball pitcher by trade, Mattheus raised his K rate from 3.4/9.0 IP to 5.6/9.0 IP while cutting down significantly on his walks. As a result, he finished the year with a lower WHIP than any National to throw at least 35 innings not named Gio (yes, even lower than Stephen Strasburg). The biggest mark against Mattheus was his eight home runs allowed, but six of those were solo shots, evidence of his ability to keep opposing runners off base, limiting the damage against him.

Arguably the biggest moment of the 29-year-old’s season – and possibly career, to this point – came in Game 1 of the NLDS in St. Louis. With Washington trailing 2-1, the Cardinals loaded the bases with nobody out to start the bottom of the seventh inning. Johnson called on Mattheus, handing him the seemingly impossible task of escaping the middle of the St. Louis lineup without allowing any damage. Cards cleanup man Allen Craig swung at the first pitch and hit a bounder to Ian Desmond at shortstop, who threw home for a force out, the first of the inning. Then, on the very next pitch, Yadier Molina rolled over a ground ball to Ryan Zimmerman, who started an inning-ending, 5-4-3 double play. Mattheus’ Houdini act made him the first Major Leaguer in Postseason history to record three outs in an inning on just two pitches.

The Galt, California native gained popularity with Washington fans by picking Katy Perry’s “Firework” as his bullpen entrance song in 2011, and he stuck with the tune in his second full season. The auditory cue became almost as synonymous in its familiarity as Michael Morse’s use of “Take On Me” in his fourth plate appearance of the game. Mattheus also let fans actively participate in helping him create his Twitter profile, encouraging them to vote for his profile photo. Mattheus will not be arbitration eligible until 2015, and is under team control through the 2018 season.

Top 12 of ‘12: #1 – Werth Walks Off

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Top 12 Number 1Their backs against the wall, trailing the defending World Champion St. Louis Cardinals two-games-to-one in the best-of-five National League Division Series, the Washington Nationals needed a hero to keep their season alive. A nervous energy reverberated through Nationals Park around the 4:07 p.m. first pitch, one that only built as a 1-1 contest remained deadlocked late into the game. After six solid innings, Ross Detwiler turned the ball over to the bullpen, handing the reins to Game 2 starter Jordan Zimmermann, pitching in relief for the first time in his Major League career.

While that may have seemed like a bold move by manager Davey Johnson, there was something in the air on that night of October 11 in D.C. Zimmermann ignited the hometown crowd of more than 44,000 by punching out the side, pumping his fist as he came off the mound. Tyler Clippard did the same in the eighth, whiffing Carlos Beltran, Matt Holiday and Yadier Molina. Drew Storen struck out two more in the ninth, the fans reaching a fever pitch as the game went to the bottom of the ninth still level at 1-1 and the top of the Nationals lineup due to lead off.

Enter Jayson Werth. Hitless in three plate appearances so far, the grizzled veteran dug in against Cardinals pitcher Lance Lynn and quickly fell behind 0-2 in the count. But he stayed alive, spoiling off anything Lynn could throw at him, not biting on breaking balls out of the zone as he worked deeper in the count. On the eighth pitch of the at-bat, he skied a foul ball toward the Nationals dugout, with the catcher Molina and first baseman Allen Craig converging near the rail. But the ball came down just out of reach, then ricocheted off a bench in the Nationals dugout, hitting Craig in the face on the rebound. Second life given, the electricity built once more, through two more fouls on pitches nine and 10, and a close take on the 11th offering from Lynn. After one more high foul pop into the stands on pitch number 12, the stage had been set.

In the ninth inning, in the 10th month, on the 11th day, in the 12th year, Werth dug in for the 13th pitch of the at-bat. At that moment, Nationals radio man Charlie Slowes recalled on the air a time, a month or so earlier against the Marlins, when Werth battled through a similarly long at-bat to lead off the bottom of the ninth, only to homer off Heath Bell to tie the game. Lynn set and delivered a fastball that started over the outside corner, but ran back toward the middle of the plate. Werth was not about to foul this one off. His laser beam to left field kept rising and rising as it pierced through the October night, the wave of realization sweeping from home plate to the visitor’s bullpen – where the ball clanked off the back wall – that this playoff battle had been finished in the most dramatic moment of this young franchise’s history.

– SEE THE REST OF THE TOP 12 OF ’12 –

2012 Player Review: Tyler Clippard

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The Washington Nationals enjoyed unprecedented success in 2012, recording the best record in Major League Baseball. The team relied on the contributions of many different players, whom we will catalogue throughout the offseason as we look ahead to the 2013 campaign. Today, we continue our alphabetical romp with “the guy who wears goggles and pitches every day,” Tyler Clippard.

Clippard’s unorthodox delivery has served him well in his six-year Major League career.

Coming off an All-Star campaign in 2011, Tyler Clippard was one of the few Nationals to have gained a fair amount of national exposure before the 2012 season. After picking up an anomalous, team-leading 11 wins out the bullpen in 2010, Clippard proved that he deserved every bit of his Midsummer Classic selection last year by posting career bests in ERA (1.83), WHIP (0.84), and K/BB rate (4.00). His ERA+ was a stunning 209, begging the question: what in the world could he possibly do for an encore?

Manager Davey Johnson both leaned on and spared Clippard throughout the 2012 campaign, throwing him for just 72.2 innings (compared to 88.1 in ’11, 91.0 in ’10), but still using him a team-high 74 times out of the bullpen. When Drew Storen opened the season on the Disabled List and Johnson was unable to find consistency at closer with the combination of Brad Lidge and Henry Rodriguez, Clippard stepped into the void with perhaps his most impressive stretch of the season. The right-hander converted 14 consecutive save opportunities, posting a 0.40 ERA and allowing just 16 baserunners while striking out 27 batters over a 22.1-inning span from May 18-July 15. That helped earn him the MLB Delivery Man of the Month award in June, where he logged a perfect 0.00 ERA and converted all 10 of his saves, including three straight at Fenway Park, capped by the one below.

While Clippard’s overall numbers couldn’t compete with those he posted the year prior, he adapted to new roles on the fly and was a crucial cog in the team’s success. After notching just one Major League save over the first five years of his professional career, the righty logged 32 of them in 2012, tied for seventh in the NL and just 10 behind the league leaders, despite only 37 total attempts.

As a “Super Two,” Clippard enters the second of his four years of arbitration in 2013, meaning he will remain under team control through at least the 2015 season.

2012 Player Review: Roger Bernadina

2012 Player Review: Corey Brown

2012 Player Review: Sean Burnett

2012 Player Review: Sean Burnett

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The Washington Nationals enjoyed unprecedented success in 2012, recording the best record in Major League Baseball. The team relied on the contributions of many different players, whom we will catalogue throughout the offseason as we look ahead to the 2013 campaign. We move to the bullpen for our first reliever on the list, Sean Burnett.

One of the most overlooked aspects of any Major League team is the bullpen, especially looking beyond the more defined “closer” role. Your standard relief corps includes seven pitchers at any given time, complementing the five-man starting rotation as part of a 12-member pitching staff. And while some of the six outside the closer may generally fit into certain roles, lefties like Sean Burnett often fill the void wherever and whenever they are needed.

The gregarious Burnett filled a number of bullpen roles this season.

To that end, Burnett served Davey Johnson’s bullpen in a number of different capacities in 2012. After using him more in situational spots that called for a lefty-lefty matchup early in the year, Johnson called upon Burnett as a closer for a pair of key saves, May 14 vs. San Diego and May 21 at Philadelphia. The southpaw then settled into more of a setup role, consistently pitching the full eighth inning in front of Tyler Clippard and then Drew Storen, upon his return from injury. And though Burnett’s 2.38 season ERA is certainly indicative of the type of year he put together, a deeper look into his numbers reveal an even more impressive performance.

Burnett posted an ERA below 1.75 in three of the season’s six months, including an April that saw him allow just five hits and two walks while fanning 10 over 6.2 scoreless frames. He held opponents scoreless 58 times in his 70 relief outings, the most appearances made without allowing a run of any hurler on the staff. For whatever reason, his pedestrian 4.26 daytime ERA (9 ER/19.0 IP) turned into a head-turning 1.43 (6 ER/37.2 IP) mark at night. Burnett’s other impressive splits came in his ability to limit lefties to a .211 average (19-for-90) with 28 strikeouts, and the fact that opponents batted only .169 (13-for-77) with runners in scoring position.

The lefty posted career-best walk and strikeout rates in 2012.

However, arguably his most valuable set of numbers were Burnett’s improvements to his strikeout and walk rates. After averaging 3.9 free passes and 6.2 punchouts per nine innings (good for a 1.60 K/BB rate) for his career, the southpaw allowed just 1.9 walks per nine in 2012 while striking out 9.1 (a 4.75 K/BB rate). For some perspective, no other regular bullpen member cracked a rate of 3.00, and even the most efficient members of the vaunted starting rotation checked in no higher than 3.56 (Jordan Zimmermann) and 4.10 (Stephen Strasburg).

Burnett and the team hold a mutual option for next season. It has been reported in the past week that Burnett may decline that option, but that the 30 year-old is interested in working out a longer-term deal here in Washington.

2012 Player Review: Roger Bernadina

2012 Player Review: Corey Brown

Power In Numbers

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It’s hard to believe, with the season the Washington Nationals have had, that they have not had more walk-off home runs. Other types of walk-offs have come in nearly every shape and form, from singles, to wild pitches, to sacrifice flies. But Ian Desmond’s two-out, two-run shot to beat the Diamondbacks in the bottom of the ninth on May 2, more than five months ago, a seemingly distant memory, was the lone game-winning blast of this memorable 2012 campaign.

Until last night.

Jayson Werth’s walk-off extended the Nationals season.

If you believe in the cosmic powers of the game, the baseball gods, as it were, this one was foreshadowed. Leading off the bottom of the ninth inning of a tie game on 10.11.12, Jayson Werth worked an epic at-bat against Lance Lynn, driving the 13th pitch into the visitor’s bullpen at Nationals Park for his 14th career postseason home run. But the bizarre parallels go beyond that sequential string of numbers alone.

On September 8, the Nationals trailed the Miami Marlins by a score of 6-5 entering the bottom of the ninth inning at home in D.C. With closer Heath Bell already throwing his warm-up pitches and Werth slated to lead off the frame, a torrential storm descended upon Nationals Park, sending fans scampering to seek shelter from the high winds and sheets of rain. The game went into a delay for more than two and-a-half hours, the dramatic bottom of the ninth put on ice. Finally, the weather cleared, the teams reemerged to the field, and Werth dug in against Bell. They battled through a long at-bat, Werth fouling off three pitches before finally working the count full.

Clippard NLDS Game 4

Tyler Clippard and the bullpen built momentum with eight strikeouts.

Less than 1,000 fans remained from the original crowd of 28,860, all descending behind the dugouts, standing, yelling, living and dying with every pitch. It had the feel of a high school playoff game, the drama and emotion running on high for those diehards that remained. Werth finally saw a center-cut fastball from Bell and smoked it to the Red Porch in left-center field for a game-tying home run. The Nationals would go on to win in walk-off fashion in the 10th inning.

Ross Detwiler also started that game, with Drew Storen earning the win following his and Tyler Clippard’s scoreless innings. Each reliever fanned the side in that September game. Clippard did so again Thursday night, with Storen punching out a pair.

The same momentum from the pitching in that September game grew in the late innings Thursday night. And once again, Werth delivered, on an at-bat five pitches longer and more surreal, a crowd of better than 44,000 already frenzied fans igniting like a supersonic jet engine as the ball cleared the left field wall.

Enjoy the full at-bat below, the six minutes of tension cut down to a tidy 2:47, to appreciate just how amazing it was. Then click below to listen to Nationals play-by-play man Charlie Slowes, who summoned the memories of that September 8 game before the 13th pitch, and the overwhelming crowd behind him as his prediction came true.

Slowes Calls Werth’s Walk-off

What to Watch For: 9/28

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Washington Nationals (95-61) vs. St. Louis Cardinals (84-72)

RHP Edwin Jackson (9-10, 3.77) vs. RHP Adam Wainwright (13-13, 4.02)

The Nationals six-game road trip continues to its second city, after Washington took the final two games to win the series in Philadelphia. Edwin Jackson returns to St. Louis for the first time since winning the 2011 World Series with the Cardinals as he opposes Adam Wainwright in the opening game of the series.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

From reliever Drew Storen, upon watching fellow bullpen-mate Tom Gorzelanny catch Michael Morse’s second home run Thursday night in his cap, as to which part of the play was more exciting:

“Well, they both were. We’re just happy anytime something happens out there.”

NATIONALS LINEUP

1. Werth RF

2. Harper CF

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. LaRoche 1B

5. Morse LF

6. Desmond SS

7. Espinosa 2B

8. Suzuki C

9. Jackson RHP

95 CURLY W’S IN THE BOOKS

With six games remaining, Washington has matched a franchise best with 95 wins (‘79 Expos) and needs four wins in its final six games to match the best mark by a D.C.-based team (‘33 Senators). The Nationals are the first ballclub from the Nation’s Capital to eclipse the 90-win plateau in 79 years, or since the pennant-winning 99-win ‘33 AL Nationals. This is the ninth 90-win campaign posted by a D.C. baseball team. From 1913-33, the AL Nationals posted eight 90-win seasons: 1933 (99 wins), 1925 (96), 1930 (94), 1932 (93), 1931 (92), 1924 (92), 1912 (91), 1913 (90).

X MARKS THE SPOT

Edwin Jackson enters tonight’s start with nine wins, looking to join teammates Gio Gonzalez (21 wins), Stephen Strasburg (15), Jordan Zimmermann (12) & Ross Detwiler (10) in the 10-win club. Washington would join the Giants as MLB’s only teams with five 10-game winners this season. In franchise annals, only the ‘79 Expos had at least five pitchers with 10 or more wins: Bill Lee (16 wins), Steve Rogers (13), Ross Grimsley (10), Rudy May (10), David Palmer (10), Dan Schatzeder (10). Only Lee and Rogers logged at least 10 wins in starts.

WORTH NOTING

The Nationals are 10-3 in their last 13 games at home against the Cardinals. However, since the beginning of the 2008 campaign, Washington is just 1-10 at the newest version of Busch Stadium. Washington has won six of the last nine one-run games in the series. Pitching in a starting role, Sean Burnett bested the Cardinals on June 29, 2004 at PNC Park to pocket his first big league win. Nationals hitting coach Rick Eckstein is the older brother of former Cardinals SS David Eckstein, who was named World Series MVP in 2006. MASN’s Bob Carpenter is a St. Louis native who spent 10 seasons broadcasting Cardinals baseball on radio and TV. WJFK’s Charlie Slowes began his broadcasting career at St. Louis’ KMOX, where he performed various on-air duties during broadcast of the Cardinals, the NFL Cardinals, the Blues and St. Louis University basketball from 1984-86.

DATE IN DC BASEBALL

September 28, 2010: The last of 76 home runs hit by Adam Dunn as a National is a game-ending solo blast off Jose Contreras and finalizes a 2-1 victory over the visiting Phillies.

September, 28 2011 — Washington wraps up its season with a 3-1 win at MIA, as Stephen Strasburg picks up his first win after coming back from Tommy John surgery. Drew Storen picked up his 43rd save with a clean 9th inning.

– FOLLOW NATIONALS VS. CARDINALS LIVE –

What to Watch For: 9/27

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Washington Nationals (94-61) vs. Philadelphia Phillies (78-77)

LHP Gio Gonzalez (20-8, 2.84) vs. RHP Tyler Cloyd (2-1, 3.86)

After splitting the first two of the three-game set, the Nationals look to take the series from the Phillies with Cy Young contender Gio Gonzalez on the mound. The southpaw has won four of his last five and seven of his last nine starts, but one of those two losses came here in Phladelphia.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

From Ian Desmond, asked if his 25th home run on Wednesday night (on the same night that Bryce Harper hit his 20th) had any particular significance to him:

“No, I’m just trying to distance myself from the 19 year-old.’”

NATIONALS LINEUP

1. Werth RF

2. Harper CF

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. LaRoche 1B

5. Morse LF

6. Desmond SS

7. Espinosa 2B

8. Suzuki C

9. Gonzalez LHP

GIO TRYING TO CATCH THE D-TRAIN

Gio Gonzalez will go for his 21st win of the season tonight vs. Philadelphia, in an attempt to become the first NL East left-hander to win an excess of 20 games since 2005 (Dontrelle Willis, 22). Note that Gio never faced Philadelphia before 2012, but was a part of their organization in 2006 when he spend the year at Double-A Reading. Against the Phillies this year, he is 2-1 with a 1.89 ERA (4 ER/19.0 IP) in three starts.

DR. DREW

Although it was not technically a save situation, Drew Storen finished off last night’s 8-4 victory over the Phillies with a perfect ninth inning, collecting one strikeout. In 20 appearances since August 17, Storen has walked one and struck out 16 while posting a 0.53 ERA (1 ER/17.0 IP) along the way. 

ACCORDING TO ELIAS…

Bryce Harper hit his ninth triple and 20th home run of the season in Washington’s win over Philadelphia on Wednesday. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, over the last 40 seasons (1973-2012), the only other rookie with that many triples and home runs in one season was Nomar Garciaparra (11 3B, 20 HR) for the Red Sox in 1997.

DATE IN DC BASEBALL

September 27, 1968: At Detroit‚ Frank Howard snaps a 1-1 tie with his 44th homer‚ and the Senators beat the Tigers‚ 3-1. Howard’s run is his 89th‚ and he’ll finish the year with that‚ compiling the most homers in history without scoring 90 runs.

September 27, 2006: The Nationals and Phillies played a marathon, 14-inning contest that lasted four hours and 53 minutes at RFK Stadium. Philly won the game, 8-7, in which the Nats employed the services of 23 players (15 position players, 8 pitchers).

– FOLLOW NATIONALS VS. PHILLIES LIVE –

This Is Happening

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It’s only appropriate, on this last day of summer, that we can officially begin to discuss postseason baseball in Washington D.C. no longer as a “likelihood” or a “probability,” but as a reality. That’s the thing about the baseball season – a hot start is great, like the one the Nationals stormed out to by winning 10 of their first 14 games, but in the scope of a six-month marathon, it means very little. All the excitement of holding down first place is fantastic fun, but it does not mean anything until this time of year. There are no cheaply won postseason spots in our sport, and only sustained success over the duration of the spring and summer will lead to those meaningful games in October that Mike Rizzo, Davey Johnson and everyone around the organization have been talking about since Spring Training.

Yes, the National League East remains undecided, with a combination of eight Nationals wins and/or Braves losses still needed to determine the division crown. Beyond that lie the fight for home field advantage through the various rounds of the playoffs. These Nationals have taken nothing for granted so far this season, and you can be sure they won’t start now. Nevertheless, one indelible fact remains: there will be postseason baseball in our Nation’s Capital for the first time in 79 years.

Michael Morse celebrated as Ryan Zimmerman raced home on a wild pitch.

“What’s the big deal?” an exuberant Johnson jokingly questioned of the press corps, as fans watching his post-game press conference in the adjoining Lexus Presidents Club cheered his arrival.

The Nationals almost clinched their postseason spot Wednesday night in dramatic, surprising fashion, coming from nowhere to overcome a six-run, eighth-inning deficit, only to fall to the Dodgers, 7-6 in the ninth. While that would have been a game for the ages, long remembered by those who stuck it out to the end, it would have supported the script that is often preached, but not necessarily accurate, about this year’s Washington club, that all of this sudden success is a surprise. In actuality, it is the culmination of years of building the right way, from the ground up, and simply watching the pieces come together at the Major League level all at once. In a sense, it was much more fitting that the history was made thanks to a well-pitched, well-defended game, trademarks of a team that Washington fans have fallen in love with this season.

Drew Storen gave the game and the fans their endearing moment to cherish, as he faced the daunting middle of the Dodgers lineup – Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez – holding a three-run lead in the ninth. The cushion would turn out to be more than enough. Storen painted a perfect, outside corner fastball to freeze Kemp, Wednesday night’s hero. He then handcuffed Gonzalez, the powerful lefty’s bat waving helplessly over a disappearing changeup. Finally, he blew away Nationals nemesis Hanley Ramirez – who owned a career .339 (147-for-433) mark with 27 home runs against the Nats coming into the at-bat – on a nasty slider to end it, pounding his mitt once and high-fiving catcher Kurt Suzuki in celebration.

Drew Storen struck out the side in the ninth to nail down the clinch.

“I didn’t even think about it until I saw it on the scoreboard afterwards,” said Storen of the clinching moment. “I was just having fun. The crowd was real into it. If you’re not out there having fun in that situation, you shouldn’t be out there.”

And though Storen provided the coup de gras, seemingly everyone chipped in. Ryan Zimmerman opened the scoring with a booming double to the left-center field gap, scoring Bryce Harper in the third inning. Danny Espinosa had an RBI-double of his own, and came in to score on a Suzuki sacrifice fly, the culmination of a hard-fought, professional at-bat. Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth each had a pair of hits, with the shortstop stealing one bag and the outfielder swiping a pair. As it has been all year with this team, you never know who the hero will be, and there were many of them Thursday night.

Ross Detwiler, meanwhile, continued to impress, and continued to show why this team has a real chance to make a deep October run. With six nearly flawless innings, in which a solo home run and a pair of singles were the only bumps in an otherwise smooth road to his career-best 10th victory, he quieted the powerful Dodgers lineup to put the Nationals in position to clinch.

Zimmerman and Werth celebrate the historic night.

“It was great seeing all of them on their feet,” the lanky lefty said of the crowd. “It really gives you the chills a bit to see how into it all of them were.”

Detwiler has consistently gone about his business, and though he is sometimes overshadowed by his teammates, there is no hiding his 6-3 record and 2.76 ERA in 13 starts since the All-Star break. He also became the fourth Nationals starter to hit double-digits in wins on Thursday, with Edwin Jackson sitting on nine victories heading into his start tonight against Milwaukee.

Speaking of those pesky Brewers, they are suddenly hot, and have clawed their way back into the race for the second National League Wild Card spot. In fact, the final four series on the Nationals schedule – Milwaukee, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Philadelphia again – all bring teams fighting for every game, their postseason lives at stake. Each game will be its own challenge, as the Nats try to wrap up the division. Those battles begin again tonight. But for today, at least, allow yourself to soak in the reality.

This is happening.

Standing Together

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The Nationals recently finished an 11-game homestand that saw the team go 8-3 as they continued their charge towards October baseball. Despite playing games every day during that stretch, Washington players and coaches made time in their busy schedules to continue to contribute behind the scenes to the D.C. community.

Storen, Clippard and Desmond visited with Nick Balenger over the last homestand.

Friday, August 31: Between his two-hit performances on August 30 and 31 in consecutive victories over the Cardinals, Ian Desmond joined teammates Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen along with Screech for a visit with patients of all ages at the MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital (NRH). During the visit, the players participated in physical therapy exercises and activities with patients, playing catch with some of the adult patients – you could do worse than tossing a ball around with a trio of Major Leaguers for your rehab work. The crew also signed autographs and took pictures with patients, families and hospital staff.

“Obviously, any time we can go out and bring a little light into people’s lives, it’s our pleasure,” said Desmond after the visit.

One of the patients – Nick Balenger – stood out in particular. A local high school baseball player who recently suffered a tragic injury while on vacation, he is working his way back from partial paralysis to try to get back on the baseball field.  During the visit, the players delivered Balenger a personalized Nationals jersey signed by the entire team.

“He’s a Nationals fan and he lit up when we walked in there,” said Desmond of Balenger. “I guess he’s been following us pretty closely.”

Saturday, September 1: In between his victories on August 29 at Miami and September 3 at home over the Cubs, Ross Detwiler and the Nationals coaching staff took time to help out with the MedStar Youth Baseball Clinic. After Nationals coaches ran through drills with all those in attendance – including D.C. youth baseball teams, children of military families and guests of MedStar Health – Detwiler signed autographs for each and every participant on the Nationals Park concourse.

Ross Detwiler signs after the recent MedStar Clinic.

Friday, September 7: Three days after notching his second win of the homestand, Edwin Jackson hosted Edwin’s Entourage. For the second time in 2012, Jackson met with local children for well over an hour before the game. He hosted D.C. Dynasty, a non-profit organization that promotes the growth of youth baseball in the Washington D.C. community.

“The reason I’m here today is for you to get an up close and personal experience, to let you know that anything is possible if you put your mind to it,” Jackson told the group of youngsters as they chatted in the press conference room.

Jackson went around the room and had each attendee introduce themselves by their name and position on the diamond, then fielded questions about life, baseball and his own path to the Major Leagues, where he is just one victory away from his fourth straight double-digit win season.

Jackson shares a humorous moment with the D.C. Dynasty players.