In closing the Nationals’ last three wins over the past three nights, Drew Storen has made things progressively harder on himself. Monday, he walked the first hitter he faced, David Wright, on four pitches. Tuesday, Storen surrendered two hits. Last night, he walked the first two hitters he faced and escaped only after Rick Ankiel made a game-ending, diving catch in center field.
Ultimately, the Nationals won all three games, he did not allow a run and his save total rose from 34 to 37, moving him into a tie for sixth in the league. If he gets three more, he’ll become the fourth closer – behind Chad Cordero, Neftali Feliz and Craig Kimbrel – to save 40 games in a season at age 23.
But that doesn’t mean last night and the past few days were easy on his manager.
“He’s been known for the dramatic,” Davey Johnson said. “When you have a two-run lead and you walk the first two hitters, I’m thinking something’s wrong with him. He’s been letter-perfect for me. We’ve had some scares. That’s one that scared me most. When I went out to shake his hand, he said, ‘Don’t worry, Skip, I had it all the way.’ ”
Storen recalled himself saying something different to Johnson: “Just hang with it. You’ve got to trust me a little bit.” Again, the only thing that mattered in the end was the ‘0’ under the ‘9’ on the Mets’ half of the scoreboard. But Storen recognized it could have gone more smoothly.
“I didn’t make it pretty,” Storen said. “I needed some help. They say the ninth is going to be hard. It’s a team game. You’re going to get picked up every once in a while.”
Storen had walked 17 batters in 671 / 3 innings before last night, and only twice had issued multiple walks in the same game. The walks may have owed, in part, to an odd recent distribution of appearances. Storen pitched three times in 14 days, then five times in the past seven.
“I just couldn’t find it,” Storen said. “You have those days. That’s not what I want. I want to have it every day. It’s been kind of a varied workload the past couple weeks. For me, that’s just about making adjustments out there. It’s tough making adjustments in the ninth inning.”
Storen adjusted enough, and got enough of an assist from Ankiel, to save the game. It also preserved the first win of Brad Peacock’s career, something that hit Storen only later.
“I didn’t realize until I saw him getting pied,” Storen said. “I got, ‘Oh, I’m glad I didn’t blow that one.’ ”