Drew Storen sat in the Nationals clubhouse with the rest of his teammates for two hours Saturday afternoon, waiting out the rain. When word spread that the game would restart – the Nationals down, 6-5, in the bottom of the ninth – Storen learned he would pitch the 10th inning. If there was a 10th inning.
Jayson Werth hit his home run, which may or may not have landed yet, and three outs later Storen came on to keep it a tie game.
“It’s no different if you think about,” Storen said last night. “You sit around anyway for three-something hours. It just happened to be eight today, or whatever it was. You just kind of switch it. Put it in drive and go with it.”
Storen’s performance may have been his best all season, since he came back from elbow surgery shortly after the all-star break. He struck out the side with 15 pitches. He hit 97 miles per hour with his fastball, which darted like an electron. But the key to his outing was his slider.
Storen threw seven sliders, and the Marlins swung at and missed four of them. He struck out Carlos Lee whiffing at a slider. Only 13 batters in the major leagues have swung and missed with a lower frequency than Lee.
“I feel like my slider has been better each time out,” Storen said. “Anytime you can a guy like Carlos Lee to swing through it, that’s when I knew it must be pretty good. He’s had really good at-bats against me all year, and I pretty much throw the kitchen sink at him.”
Storen is throwing a different slider now than in the past. During his rehab from elbow surgery, he wanted to give the pitch more depth.
“They always say when you come back from elbow surgery, the slider is the last thing,” Storen said. “When it was on last year, it didn’t really slide. It just dove. I figured something out.”
Storen’s performance capped a dominant final three innings for the Nationals’ bullpen. Christian Garcia pitched the eighth, when the Marlins still led by three, and Tyler Clippard had the ninth. Combined with Storen, they struck out eight of the 10 batters they faced.
Garcia induced three swing and misses in eight pitches and struck out two. His most impressive moment may have been striking out Donnie Murphy with a nasty, 86-mph changeup. He also pumped a 96-mph fastball.
Garcia, a call-up who joined the team last week, continues to draw raves. One executive from another team said Garcia, 27, looks like an eighth-inning set-up man right now. He played under the radar all season at Class AAA Syracuse, but may make a real impact as the Nationals try to clinch the division.