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Drew Storen, that other first-round pick, pitches in

Once Stephen Strasburg departed, Drew Storen reminded everyone not to overlook the Nationals' other 2009 first-round draft pick.

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.

By Adam Kilgore  |  July 3, 2010; 10:34 PM ET
Categories:  Drew Storen , Stephen Strasburg  
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Comments

Storen should be getting some All Star consideration himself.

Sec314

Posted by: arlingtontwb | July 3, 2010 11:32 PM | Report abuse

Adam, this game was so exciting that I read your gamer, which I rarely do. I must say that if I hadn't been to the game, I would not have much notion of what happened. No mention of what the score was at Strasburg's exit, who pitched after Storen, including Matt Capps's great outing (especially retiring the torrid David Wright). Most of all, the wildness of the ninth inning needs 'splainin. Guzman thought Dunn's near grand slam ball was caught (it nearly was, which you didn't mention), Willie saw it all the way, and Zim was playing it safe. I loved all the quotes from the principals, though.

Posted by: paulkp | July 4, 2010 12:25 AM | Report abuse

Newbie here again---watching Storen pitch today was certainly at least as good as watching Strasburg. I was wondering why he wasn't kept in for the 8th? Are his innings limited?

Posted by: skidge | July 4, 2010 12:33 AM | Report abuse

So often, wins in relief are just luck; for a closer, it usually means he didn't get it done, but tonight, Mad Matt Capps showed how valuable he is to the Nats. He really earned that win with his work in the 9th.

And Pudge: Only a veteran like him could have been ready to take a low-and-away slider to right, in the air. What an AB and what a win!

Let's go, Nats!

Posted by: nats24 | July 4, 2010 1:31 AM | Report abuse

I was at the game and while we were there we commented that we were surprised how many people DIDNT leave when Strasburg was pulled. Sure there are always people who just come for the celeb, and it's easy to make Half Street look full, but the stands remained remarkably filled.

The big exodus seemed to come after Clippard gave up those runs. And you see that sort of thing everywhere. Ever since I was a little kid I never understood it -- you can't see a great finish unless you're willing to stick it out when it's most improbable. But even in such baseball towns as New York and Boston, people leave in droves when the team coughs up late inning runs and a substantial lead. In LA, they draw 3-million a year for a good team, but they come late and leave early.

Also, unlike most games against New York teams, it was clear that Nats fans outnumbered Mets fans yesterday. Sure, a lot of them were there to see Strasburg, but that's the point in signing stars and paying them a lot of money, no?

It was a truly great finish, the best since Maxwell's walk-off slam at the last 2009 home game. Better and more exciting than if Dunn's ball had gone out. Sweet to see Pudge get that moment.

Posted by: Meridian1 | July 4, 2010 6:42 AM | Report abuse


And now for the negatives:

1. I'd like to know Riggleman's explanation for PHing Martin. I was at the game with long-time fans and, except for situations deep into extra-inning games when no one is left on the bench, we'd never seen anything like it. I can understand that Riggleman didn't want to burn a premier pinch hitter, but still, when you have a team that struggles to score runs, you can't just give away outs.

2. Yes he got a timely hit but that still doesnt justify playing Willie Harris over Bernadina. When a team is floundering and struggling to score runs and remain relevant, and especially in front of a sellout home crowd, you put your best people out there and giving people playing time shouldn't be a consideration. This isn't Little League (even though it sometimes looks like it).

3. Base running remains atrocious. Desmond had no business trying for second, especially after hesitating at first. He had almost no chance, it was incredibly dumb.

4. They also nearly ran themselves out of the game on the Dunn hit with the confusion at third base. These are things for which the coaching staff is largely responsible. Players don't learn this stuff by being benched, they learn it my being coached and managed effectively.

One last thing: I was impressed with how well Strasburg handled himself yesterday. He was wild in the first inning, threw more balls than strikes (amazing for him), but kept his composure, didn't let it get out of hand and settled down. Yes it was his weakest start, but the early departure was primarily the result of a 37 pitch first inning. If this were the old days and if he weren't on a pitch count, and considering he'd given up only two runs on four hits and had retired the last seven batters, he'd have probably ended up pitching a complete game and winning (assuming he got some run support and didn't have to be pulled for a pinch hitter). And everyone would have said how well he pitched after a shaky first inning.

Storen was terrific. Clippard was not.

Posted by: Meridian1 | July 4, 2010 6:56 AM | Report abuse

@Meridian1, Bernadina was out with a hurting back, and will be out for a couple more days. Not to say Harris was the best choice for RF, but Bernie was not merely being punished or something.

Posted by: shepdave2003 | July 4, 2010 7:20 AM | Report abuse

@shep: Thanks. I didn't know that. Should have.

Posted by: Meridian1 | July 4, 2010 7:24 AM | Report abuse

And not to pile on, but Desmond wasn't out by all that much (from looking at 3 replays). It was early, they have indeed been scoring little, and it's a do-or-die play--he can't go halfway and wait to see how far the ball got away from Wright. Kevin Millar, in the Fox booth, thought it was a good, aggressive play that just didn't pan out. So do I, FWIW.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | July 4, 2010 8:57 AM | Report abuse

And everybody knows Willie Harris is Met-kryptonite.

Pinch-hitting Martin, now--there, I'm still shaking my head. At least give me Livo.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | July 4, 2010 8:59 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, the Mets must hate him.

I had the same thought re. Livo. Perhaps Riggs was swayed by the memory of Martin's recent 2b hit?

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | July 4, 2010 9:10 AM | Report abuse

Has Storen ever started? In high school yes but at Stanford?

Posted by: MKadyman | July 4, 2010 9:23 AM | Report abuse

Has there been an official explanation of the ground rule in center field? I would have guessed that the metal rail is part of the wall, and that bouncing back on the field after hitting either the rail or the padding is in play. Otherwise it's a rule that can only be applied after replay. But I haven't seen it explained.

Posted by: markfromark | July 4, 2010 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Storen should be getting some All Star consideration himself.

Sec314
****************
That's getting a little carried away.
There are several more deserving middle relievers that will not get any All Star consideration.

**********


Has Storen ever started? In high school yes but at Stanford?

Posted by: MKadyman
************************
Drew pitched 2 years at Stanford, all in relief.
http://www.gostanford.com/sports/m-basebl/mtt/storen_drew00.html

Posted by: Sunderland | July 4, 2010 9:55 AM | Report abuse

fwiw (CF is not specifically mentioned in the park-specific portion of the ground rules):

http://mlb.mlb.com/was/ballpark/ground_rules.jsp

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | July 4, 2010 9:59 AM | Report abuse

I too was at yesterday's game. Why was Storen taken out? Was it a lefty or righty thing with the next batter up in the 8th?

Posted by: CALSGR8 | July 4, 2010 11:43 AM | Report abuse

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