Rafael Soriano still cannot say for sure why his season veered so far of course at one point. Between May 17 and Aug. 15, Soriano punched up a 4.18 ERA and blew four saves in 23 chances. He allowed 45 hits and walks in 32 1/3 innings. The Nationals had brought him to Washington to provide certainty in the ninth inning, and he instead offered an unwanted thrill ride.
Over the past three weeks, though, Soriano has given himself a chance to finish his first season in Washington strong. After a 1-2-3 save this afternoon in Miami, Soriano has converted seven straight chances to give himself 39 saves this year, which ranks second in the National League.
“He attacked the zone,” catcher Wilson Ramos said. “He’s pitching down in the zone. It’s better right now. Right now, I’m behind the plate with him and I see him throwing better. His pitches move a lot, down in the zone. He’s doing good.”
Soriano lacked crispness on his pitches for most of this season. He left fastballs high in the zone, his cutter was straight and his slider was anything but sharp. That has changed lately, especially his slider. “That’s one of the reasons,” Soriano said.
Another is more consistent usage. As the Nationals slumped through the majority of the season, Soriano sat unused in the bullpen. As they have gone 19-9 in their past 28 games, Soriano has seen more regular work.
“This year, I had like three or four times I don’t pitch for like a week,” Soriano said. “It’s not easy, you know? Pitching every two or three days, for me, I feel more better like that. When you have five days where you don’t pitch, it’s not easy. But you know, it don’t be nobody’s fault. The team has been struggling.”
Soriano has finished 52 games, which is pertinent to his future with the Nationals. The Nationals owe Soriano $28 million over two seasons. But he also holds a $14 million option for 2015 that vests if Soriano finished 120 games over his first two years in Washington. With a strong finish, Soriano will either be on pace or close to it.
He also has a chance to achieve some milestones in the season’s final 20 games. With eight saves, Soriano would tie Chad Cordero’s team record of 47 in 2005. With six, he would match his career mark of 45 saves.
>>> Though Bryce Harper flew to Washington today, he will not see Nationals medical director Dr. Wiemi Douoguih until Monday, Manager Davey Johnson said. Harper will not join the Nationals in New York on Monday, but he may meet them Tuesday for the final three games of the four-game series.