Six months after Drew Storen's ninth-inning struggles against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 5 of the NLDS, the Washington Nationals' closer was back on the mound in Nationals Park with a two-run lead in the ninth. This time it was the Atlanta Braves who rallied against the 25-year-old right-hander, scoring two runs to tie it and then winning in extra innings on a Ramiro Pena two-run home to right off Craig Stammen.
With 33-year-old Nats' closer Rafael Soriano unavailable following three straight saves in three straight games, Nationals' manager Davey Johnson turned to the '09 1st Round pick who'd saved 52 games over his first three-plus seasons in the majors before tonight. Storen gave up back-to-back singles to start the ninth, then issued a one-out walk to load the bases before a Justin Upton grounder to third was thrown away by Ryan Zimmerman as he tried for a force at second and threw wide of the bag and by Danny Espinosa into right.
Two runs scored on the play, which Davey Johnson said Zim had to try to make, and it was tied at 4-4 after nine. The Braves won it in the 10th on the 27-year-old Pena's third MLB HR in 188 games. "Two great ballgames,"Johnson said after tonight's loss, referring to the two blown saves in the Nats' first 10 games, both of which came in Detwiler's outings, though the Nats rallied to win against Cincinnati. "And to come out with nothing. I feel real bad about that. We just didn't make the pitches. We just didn't attack the hitters. We just kind of gave them some momentum."
"I was off of Soriano," the Nats' skipper explained, so when Tyler Clippard's pitch count climbed to 35 pitches with two down in the eighth, Johnson turned to Storen and asked the reliever to get the last four outs. "Clippard threw 11 pitches the day before and then he was up to I think 34 pitches," Johnson said, "I just couldn't go any further with him. We just gave them too many opportunities." And too many walks. "They'll kill you," Johnson said of the four his bullpen surrendered.
The Nationals' manager said he didn't have a good angle on Ryan Zimmerman's errant throw to second with the bases loaded and two down in the ninth, but he didn't question his third baseman's decision to try for an out instead of pocketing it and holding the Braves to one run. "You've got to play it [to] one base," Johnson said, "I mean, the ball was a couple steps to the right. Second base is the play. [Jason] Heyward [who was headed from first to second] is pretty fast. But, you know, like I say, we gave them too many opportunities. You can't do that [with] a good-hitting ballclub."
'They're going to be fine," Johnson said when asked what his pen could do to improve. "Tremendous talent. This is a tough one. This is a couple of them for [Detwiler] we haven't held them. And I take responsibility for that. That's my part of the game, creating the matchups. That's the tough part." Johnson kept Storen in reserve after Soriano pitched in all three games, but things didn't play out as planned. The good thing, in the Nats' skipper's opinion is that they can get right back out there tomorrow and do it again. "For me it's better," Johnson said, "Let's get back out there."
Was he excited about the idea of eighteen more games against the Braves? "Sure," the veteran manager said, "That's what it's all about."
Denard Span wants to get right back at it too:
Tough one to swallow... Gotta come back tomorr ready to go! #letsgetit— Denard Span (@thisisdspan) April 13, 2013
1:05 pm EST on Saturday. Stephen Strasburg vs Tim Hudson in Game 2 of 3 in D.C.
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