Without Matt Capps, Sean Burnett steps up
The attention fell on Drew Storen last night as he earned his first career save. Manager Jim Riggleman jotted a congratulatory note on the lineup card, which would join the game ball in Storen's locker. "He's going to be great," catcher Ivan Rodriguez said. "He's got a lot of talent."
While Storen yielded only a walk in a scoreless ninth, he would not have had the chance at the milestone without the continued strong performance of Sean Burnett, the most effective and important reliever since Matt Capps was sent to the Minnesota Twins. Burnett retired all five batters he faced in just 22 pitches, another efficient, dominant appearance from the Nationals' unassuming lefty.
Since the Nationals weakened their bullpen by trading Capps, Burnett has allowed one earned run in 4 2/3 on no hits and a walk. That one run scored after Burnett had left the game with a runner on base. Burnett has retired the past 12 batters he's faced, and his ERA for the season is down to 2.68.
"This is what Burnie is capable of doing," Manager Jim Riggleman said. "The timing couldn't be better. He's really been good. With Matt gone, for him to be able to do what he's he done for us has been huge."
Burnett's recent performance has boosted his case for at least sharing closer duties with Storen. Riggleman said he'll decided base on "whatever the situation calls on," including Joel Peralta and Tyler Clippard as relievers who could be called upon for outs in the ninth. "That question will answer itself with their performances," Riggleman said.
Though Burnett recorded a save in Arizona, Storen has surfaced most often when a situation calls for a closer. He's proven he has the stuff for the job, but Riggleman would like to see him cut down on walks - Storen has 15 in 35 innings this year.
"He's still a work in progress," Riggleman said. "The command of his fastball is something he's working on. There's more in there than what we're seeing. Once he gets command of that fastball, he's going to be a real dominant guy."
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