Drew Storen got help from the right side of the Washington Nationals' infield when Steve Lombardozzi and Adam LaRoche somehow, using gloves and knees, handled a well-placed bunt by Philadelphia Phillies' infielder Freddy Galvis on the first pitch of the top of the eighth. Michael Young was 0 for 3 before he walked on five pitches in his one-out at bat, but even after that the Nats' 25-year-old reliever got Ryan Howard with backdoor 1-2 slider for out no.2 in what was then a 3-3 game in the nation's capital.
Storen started behind Delmon Young and gave up a hard-hit single on 94 mph 1-1 sinker. The ball got by LaRoche at first, and Bryce Harper threw up the third base line on the throw home as Michael Young scored the go-ahead run in what ended up a 5-3 Nationals' loss when Domonic Brown doubled on the next pitch from Storen to score Delmon Young's pinch runner Michael Martinez.
Philly catcher Erik Kratz popped out to Kurt Suzuki to end the eighth after 20 pitches, 13 of them strikes, from Storen, but the right-hander gave up two hits, a walk and two runs and after his 19th appearance and 19th inning pitched this season, the '09 1st Round pick has a 5.21 ERA, a 4.26 FIP, five walks (2.37 BB/9), 17 Ks (8.05 K/9) and as NatsInsider.com's Mark Zuckerman noted on Twitter, three straight outings in which he's blown a save, given up a run and now tonight, taken a loss. Storen told reporters after the game that he knows it has to change:
Drew Storen: "It’s what have you done for me lately. I haven’t done a whole lot. ... It’s gonna be fixed."— Dan Kolko (@masnKolko) May 26, 2013
Drew Storen: "Just giving up too many hits. Can't do that late in the game."— James Wagner (@JamesWagnerWP) May 26, 2013
"He's been -- he's not where we want him to be," Nats' skipper Davey Johnson told reporters after tonight's game. "He's not locating like he can. I noticed tonight he changed his set-up delivery, where he dropped his hands down around his waist. I actually liked that. He was actually quicker to the plate, looked like he's free and easy. Made some good pitches, but I've got to have him. He's important to our bullpen. And it [was] a situation where I count on him to do it."
Asked if he could pinpoint the problem, Johnson said it comes down to command. "I think at times it's been -- he's been relying on his stuff and throwing the ball hard," Johnson said, "and his good hard breaking ball... tonight he threw a couple good changeups to [Ryan] Howard and a backdoor breaking ball, that was really good. But it's just location. It's always just location. You can get by on stuff just a little while, you just have to make good pitches and walking a guy is your death toll there, and that's been a little bit of his problem. I think he's trying to put a lot on it should have just... get ahead and then get fine. But we sure need him, especially with [Ryan] Mattheus out."
The Nationals' manager didn't think it was a confidence issue for Storen, who had elbow surgery last year and a went through the devastating loss in last year's NLDS. "I think he's got worlds of confidence," Johnson said. "Again, it's just making pitches. And he was unbelievable in  and making his pitches and now he's trying to right the ship and maybe trying to do too much and not trusting his stuff as well as he should."
Johnson said it was hard to take an approach where he can pick his spots and pitch Storen in situations in which he can build up his confidence. "He likes to throw a lot," the manager explained, "And he's more effective the more he pitches. But, we're in a pennant race, there's not a lot of easy spots out there. I don't think he's intimidated by anything late in the ballgame. I mean, your confidence can get shattered a little bit when you don't have the success you want, but he's certainly capable and he just needs to get going."