Drew Storen, that other first-round pick, pitches in
Storen, the 10th pick last year, cleaned house during the sixth and seventh innings of Saturday's thrilling, 6-5 victory over the Mets. He struck out three, threw 19 strikes in 25 pitches and allowed zero balls out of the infield. Storen's ERA shrunk to 1.59, the best of any National with any appreciable innings, and he has not allowed a run in his past six appearances.
"That's what he does," Strasburg said. "He goes out there and he shuts it down. That was big for us. That's when our bats started to come alive. If he didn't hold the Mets there, it might have been too far out of reach to get a rally in the late innings."
Indeed, the Nationals trailed by only three runs after Tyler Clippard's latest implosion, three earned in two-thirds of the eighth inning. Clippard acted as the glue of the Nationals for much of this season, but he has struggled lately, allowing seven earned runs in his last four appearances. It's not out of the question that he and Storen - who, incidentally, are roommates - could swap roles.
Storen has proved himself able to pitch in any inning. Storen feels he has improved over his first month-and-a-half in the major leagues.
"That's the best thing about it," Storen said. "Being around the team every day, you get to make adjustments and kind of just tinker with things. I feel comfortable, but I'm always looking for that extra edge."
He found one recently - he stopped throwing out of the wind-up in order to make his delivery more direct to the plate. On film, he noticed himself "getting kind of twisty" with his wind-up. He compared video of himself from the wind-up and the stretch and realized his release point was different in both. The stretch was better, so he scrapped his wind-up.
The adjustment led to what was probably the best of his 21 major league appearances. It was only the third time he had pitched two full innings. Each of the first two times he threw a pair of innings, Storen allowed a run in the second. Opposing hitters had been 9 for 53 (.170) against Storen in his first inning and 6 for 15 (.400) in his second inning.
"I kind of struggled in that second inning," Storen said. "For me, that was great to kind of break through."
Once Storen finished, he sat back and watched a game he called, "a reminder of why baseball is so great. It was a roller-coaster ride." Without him, the Nationals could not have won it. A sellout crowd had showed up to watch Strasburg. On Saturday, the rookie who pitched best was Storen.
July 3, 2010; 10:34 PM ET
Categories: Drew Storen , Stephen Strasburg
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