After strong stretch, Nationals reliever Drew Storen stumbles again


Alex Brandon/Associated Press

For the second time in three days, after an impressive stretch of not allowing an earned run in 16 of his previous 17 appearances, Drew Storen stumbled. With a 5-2 lead entering the seventh inning, Storen allowed three runs on two home runs that knotted the score in Washington’s eventual 8-5 win. Relievers’ earned run averages can fluctuate with a bad outing or two, and Storen’s ERA has shot up from 3.82 before the bad two-appearance stretch to 5.40 after allowing seven runs.

“I left the ball up again and paid for it,” he said. “You look at the difference between the 17 appearances before that and the last two … if the ball is up in the zone you’ll pay for it.”

Manager Davey Johnson turned to Ross Ohlendorf to notch the final out of the sixth inning for starter Taylor Jordan. Then, Johnson asked for Storen to pitch the seventh. “I had all the confidence in Storen and Storen is trying to trick people instead of making his pitches,” Johnson said. “Maybe that’s a good learning game.”

With one out, Storen left a change-up high in the zone that Yuniesky Betancourt smashed to left field for a solo home run. Once Betancourt made contact and Storen turned to catch a glimpse of the ball’s flight, he knew the result and was visibly upset at himself.

After Storen struck out Norichika Aoki and Jean Segura smacked a single to center field, Storen faced Carlos Gomez, the Brewers’ best power hitter in the lineup. Pitching coach Steve McCatty made a visit to the mound. Storen jumped ahead of Gomez when he bunted a fastball foul and then missed on a slider. The next slider, however, Storen hung over the plate left over the heart of the plate and Gomez unloaded on it for a game-tying two-run home run.

Despite his difficulties, Storen was credited with the win after Wilson Ramos hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh.

During Storen’s strong stretch of appearances from May 27 to July 1 – which included a clunker at Coors Field – Johnson said the right-hander was controlling his sinking fastball well and down in the strike zone, and on occasion a curveball.

“Up until that point, he has the tendency to overpower and try to trick people,” Johnson said. “And he doesn’t have to trick people with that stuff. But like I said, hopefully he’ll learn because he shook off a bunch of times today to get to the hanging change-up or hanging breaking ball.”

Storen insisted that the results hinged completely on the execution of pitches.

“It comes down to location, no matter what I’m thinking about,” he said. “If it’s over the plate and it’s hanging, it’s going to get hit. If you throw bad pitches – you say pitch selection, you say it’s overthinking, whatever it is – if you execute the pitch you don’t have any problems.”

James Wagner joined the Post in August 2010 and, prior to covering the Nationals, covered high school sports across the region.

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Roman Stubbs · July 4, 2013

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