Nearly six months after blowing the save in Game 5 of the National League Division Series last October, Drew Storen finally got his chance Wednesday to pitch in a game that counted at Nationals Park. Yes, he was able to take the mound on Friday against New York, but that was an exhibition game. This time Storen entered a regular season situation, in the eighth inning with a two-run lead, and real consequences on the line.
“It was good to get in there and get your feet wet in some regular season baseball,” he said.
“It just felt comfortable more than anything. When you go out and get in a game like that, a tight game, it’s fun. It’s fun to get those juices flowing again and that’s what locks me in.”
Storen made it through the Marlins batters with no issue, using 14 pitches to exit the inning. He got Greg Dobbs and Adeiny Hechavarria to fly out before striking out pinch-hitter Chris Coghlan.
It was efficient, convincing, and perhaps just wanted Storen needed.
“I think it was nice for him so people can stop talking about it,” Kurt Suzuki, who was the catcher in Game 5, said.
“I've got so much confidence in Drew. He's got great stuff. He's a great reliever. He showed that tonight, and he's shown it in his career. That one game, obviously, was magnified a little bit because of what was at stake, but I think Drew's going to be fine.”
Ryan Zimmerman has been in Storen’s corner since he joined the team in 2009 and defended him after the playoff loss. He re-iterated Wednesday night he still believes in him in pressure situations.
“He's been a closer, he's been in the big leagues. He understands that you can't save every one and you can't get all the guys out every single time,” he said.
“I think that's why he's going to be so successful this year: he can forget about that. He shouldn't feel bad about that. He was one of the biggest reasons why we were in that position. Unfortunately, it just didn't work for him that night. But I think he's past that, just like we all are. We all expect him to be the guy that he was tonight.”
Storen showed no signs of timidity or change in demeanor from last season. He entered the game ready to attack batters and led with his fastball. He used his fastball or hard sinker nine times among his 14 throws.
“That’s part of the thing that made me successful in the past. When you got the defense that we have, there’s no reason not to do that. For me, I was going to go out there and attack and see what happens.”
Manager Davey Johnson said before the game he plans to rotate Storen and fellow reliever Tyler Clippard in and out of the setup role, depending on recent games. While he may no longer be the closer, Storen did what he could on Wednesday night to prove himself to Johnson.
“I thought he threw the ball great today,” Johnson said. “He threw some good-located fastballs and wasn’t trying to overthrow. Just made some good pitches.”