After Drew Storen closed the first game of Tuesday’s doubleheader, even though he had thrown 24 pitches, he did not apply ice to his elbow and shoulder. Manager Davey Johnson had asked him if he could pitch again at night if the Nationals took a lead with three outs left. Storen told him he could.
“I want the ball in the ninth inning with the game on the line,” Storen said.
Storen showed Tuesday why he has become one of the best in baseball in that situation. By completing a rare two-save day, Storen reached 40 saves on the season, placing him sixth in the majors. Storen’s 40 saves have come in 45 chances, giving him a better save percentage than Craig Kimbrel, the league leader with 45 saves. In Storen’s first full season, he’s placed himself among the elite closers in the league.
Reaching 40 saves “was a goal of mine,” Storen said. “I wasn’t really sure I was going to get it. I didn’t know how I was going to be able to adapt to it over the long haul of the season. That’s kind of a learning process along the way. I’m happy to get there, but I know there’s still some left. It’s going to be a good building block for me.”
It is easy to forget now that Storen’s season began with a small amount of doubt regarding his spot on the 25-man roster. Storen’s ERA in spring training ballooned to more than 10.00. He remembers how awful and helpless it felt to stand on the mound and not be able to get anybody out, and he believes it has helped him.
“It just shows you, this game is a funny game,” Storen said. “To be able to learn and just ask a lot of questions, that was a good learning experience to not take anything for granted. Even when I was throwing well at the beginning of the season, I was still trying to change things, still trying to stay on top of my game. Spring training was a big reason for that. It wasn’t fun to go through that, but in the end I probably wouldn’t have done as well without it.”
Storen became only the fourth closer to save 40 games during a season in which he turned 24 (on August 1), joining Chad Cordero (47, 2005), Neftali Feliz (40, 2010) and Kimbrel (45 and counting, 2011).
Storen has been durable all season, and he reached his latest milestone with an abnormally durable showing. Storen threw 24 pitches to save the day game, allowing a leadoff double before preserving a one-run lead in the 10th inning. Storen breezed through a 1-2-3 ninth in the nightcap, striking out the last two hitters he faced.
“That was more what I like,” Johnson said. “The earlier one is not what I liked. He’s a pretty durable guy. I was a little worried about him, because he threw a lot of pitches in that first game.”
Storen asked older teammates for advice on how to handle his time between games to prepare for pitching both. Rather than ice his arm, Storen tried to stay loose. He stretched more during the second game than he would, but he threw fewer than his typical number of warm-up pitches.
“I felt really good the second time around. I had never pitched twice in a day before. To be honest with you, waking up this morning, that’s not something I expected to do. … Once I threw that first game, I expected to throw the second. I’m pretty happy with it.”