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The Nationals' bullpen comes through

On Tuesday night, as Miguel Batista walked from the bullpen toward the dugout, the Nationals faced a seemingly unfair fight. Sitting in last place, they had a series against the first-place Braves, and they had just lost Stephen Strasburg and replaced him with their long reliever.

Batista's five scoreless innings set the tone for the Nationals not just that night, but for the whole series. Counting his five innings, Nationals relievers pitched 16 2/3 consecutive innings as they beat the Braves two out of the three games for their first series victory since July 8.

"I think we're just knowing we need to step up," Drew Storen said. "We're really taking pride in our job, and we're all coming together well. We're getting on a roll and just kind of hanging with it."

On Thursday, Sean Burnett, Drew Storen and Matt Capps each pitched one scoreless inning, Capps picking up his 26th save. Since the all-star break, again including Batista's spot start, the Nationals' bullpen has a 2.87 ERA. This series, it helped them beat the Braves despite 4 1/3 innings from Livan Hernandez and zero pitches from Strasburg. The relievers, a close group, feel like they collect momentum when one pitchers well.

"Absolutely," Storen said. "You just kind of feed off that. We're like a whole family down there. We're like a little outcast family down there in the bullpen."

Storen has bounced back from the most harrowing outing of his rookie season, when he surrendered a walk-off single Saturday night in Milwaukee to Ryan Braun. Stroren has rebounded with consecutive scoreless innings in tight games.

After he took the loss Saturday, Storen watched film of himself from college, when he closed games at Stanford. He noticed how quickly he worked - batters constantly stepped out of the box, uncomfortable with how fast he came at them. Storen had slowed down between pitches, thinking he should be more calm as a middle reliever. That also gave him more time to consider things.

"When I think, I get myself in trouble," Storen said. "I needed to get a little moxie."

He used a teammate for inspiration. Storen had watched Joel Peralta close games at Class AAA Syracuse with a bat-out-of-hell pace. In the majors, as a middle reliever and often in games the Nationals are losing, Peralta takes the same effectively frenzied approach. Storen realized he could pitch like a closer in the seventh or eighth inning, and he cited Peralta as the reason why.

"He's my favorite pitcher to watch," Storen said. "He never loses that fire."

By Adam Kilgore  |  July 29, 2010; 7:37 PM ET
Categories:  bullpen  
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Next: Nationals trade Matt Capps to Twins

Comments

Storen is flat out a great interview. Nice piece AK. Peralta is kind of an unsung hero out there. His three solid innings yesterday kept the rest of the pen from getting tired out before today's game, and it paid off.

Posted by: Section222 | July 29, 2010 8:54 PM | Report abuse

Love Storen. Particularly because he is awesome and enables the Capps trade to the Twins for Ramos.

Posted by: GoNatsTerps | July 29, 2010 9:58 PM | Report abuse

Heard it here first by the way

Posted by: GoNatsTerps | July 29, 2010 10:08 PM | Report abuse

Capps to be traded to the Twins for catcher Wilson Ramos.

Posted by: sdrappa | July 29, 2010 10:11 PM | Report abuse

Capps deal done according to MLB Tonight. Interesting deal...can't really fault Rizzo hear, Capps is decent, but not special, and is gonna get a nice raise on that 3.5 Million next year. Ramos is Twins #2 prospect according to BA, and with Flores' situation, the Nats need a Catcher of the future. Thumbs up for me.

Posted by: jfromPG | July 29, 2010 10:14 PM | Report abuse

This is a great deal for the Nats. I was hoping the Nats would trade Capps since the end of April. I've yet to be disappointed with any of Rizzo's moves.

Posted by: EnricoPolatzo | July 29, 2010 10:18 PM | Report abuse

Wow.

Rizzo just converted a player waived in the offseason into one of the top five minor league catching prospects in baseball. Buy low. Sell high.

Nice work, Rizzo.

I wonder if this opens the door to a Pudge deal?

Posted by: LosDoceOcho | July 29, 2010 10:19 PM | Report abuse

you have to give rizzo alot of credit here..signs capps off the scrap heap in december, gets 25 saves and flips him at the trade deadline for a top catching prospect. that's how you build an organization, boys.

Posted by: bartlebooth | July 29, 2010 10:19 PM | Report abuse

wow, we were thinking the exact same thing at the exact same time..eerie

Posted by: bartlebooth | July 29, 2010 10:20 PM | Report abuse

Excited about a Capps for Ramos trade. Not sure if it's true, but he would be a great prospect to get a hold of in an area where we're particularly weak (see: Nieves, Will).

Posted by: DavidandDonald | July 29, 2010 10:20 PM | Report abuse

I like the trade too. Sounds like Rizzo doesn't have a whole lot of confidence that Flores will be back, or that Norris will be ready soon. But would be great to have a better hitting backup than who? Wil Nieves.

Posted by: Section222 | July 29, 2010 10:23 PM | Report abuse

MLB Channel confirms Matt Capps to the Minny Twins for a prospect catcher!

Adam Dunn your days in NatsTown look to be but a few precisous hours!

Posted by: TippyCanoe | July 29, 2010 10:25 PM | Report abuse

Good deal, shake on it. Good luck and thanks to Matt Capps

Posted by: Kev29 | July 29, 2010 10:26 PM | Report abuse

Love this. Capps is probably a perfect fit for the Nationals/Senators, er. Twinkies. They lost their closer and desperately need one (Rauch ain't it).

OTOH, much as I love Pudge and want to see him finish up this year and next with the Nats, he's almost 40 and is beginning to wear down as the season passes 100 games w/ 60 to go. Ramos is 23, already has been up to the Majors for a cup 'o'. He's a horse. If it was my call, I'd put him on the ML roster, restrict Pudge to 4 games a week and let the kid catch the other 2 or 3. If he is as projected, next year will take care of itself.

BTW, all three Twins ML catchers were born in '87, as was Ramos. Talk about a glut.

Posted by: mikecatcher50 | July 29, 2010 10:35 PM | Report abuse

mlbtraderumors has it as Capps for Ramos and a lefty reliever with the nats throwing some cash to MN. Good stuff -- we have bull pen depth, they have an extra catcher who ranks pretty high. Nice deal. Hope Capps gets to the playoffs.

Posted by: dfh21 | July 29, 2010 10:36 PM | Report abuse

Glad I stuck out the rain delay to see Capps' last Nats save then. One of his most efficient innings all year, too. Anybody found anything on Ramos yet, other than he's 22 from Venezuela?

Posted by: NATurallyYours | July 29, 2010 10:39 PM | Report abuse

Lefty reliever is Joe Testa?

Posted by: EnricoPolatzo | July 29, 2010 10:40 PM | Report abuse

What? Did somebody say the Nats threw in cash to make the deal happen? I thought the Twinkies were swimming in dough with their new park. Huh. I wonder how the Lerners are Cheap crowd will spin this one.

Posted by: LosDoceOcho | July 29, 2010 10:40 PM | Report abuse

"I wonder if this opens the door to a Pudge deal?"

Nope, but it's bye bye Nieves. Look for him to be put on waivers, go unclaimed and be signed back by the Nats to a minor league contract. Ramos will be put on the 25 man roster immediately and probably split the catching duties with Pudge the rest of the season, as Flores was supposed to be doing now.

Now, with Capps gone who will close? I say Peralta. Storen's not ready yet, and Clippard's not closer material.

Posted by: nunof1 | July 29, 2010 10:41 PM | Report abuse

Not much spin is needed to show Capps who'll earn something like $6-7M next year is much less of an obligation for the lerners than paying even all of Capp's remaining 2010 salary (Capps total salary this year is something like $3.5M). So, the Lerners saved Millions with this move, if the plan had been to go to arb with Capps next year.

Posted by: dfh21 | July 29, 2010 10:56 PM | Report abuse

I agree NO1 - It only makes sense if Ramos is on the ML roster starting tomorrow. BTW, saw something called sethspeaks.net, a weekly Twins' minor league report site, and in a mid-season poll of all the bloggers who follow Twins minor leaguers (I know, I know), Ramos is listed as a candidate for both biggest disappointment and top prospect. Can't find any criteria to back up either. Oh well...guess we'll see for ourselves soon enough.

Posted by: NATurallyYours | July 29, 2010 10:59 PM | Report abuse

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