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Tough week continues with Storen’s bad night

Aug 7, 2015, 11:48 PM EDT

USA Today

The Nationals again built an early lead on a team with a losing record on Friday night, as they’ve grown accustomed to in recent games. But again their offense locked up in the later innings and again their bullpen couldn’t hold up their end of the bargain.

This time it was against the Colorado Rockies, who rode an eighth-inning grand slam by slugger Carlos Gonzalez to a 5-4 comeback victory.

The Nationals lost, but there were several moments where they had the Rockies exactly where they wanted them, including with Bryce Harper up in the bottom of the ninth representing the winning run. This loss wasn’t on Harper, though, as Drew Storen allowed the big hit to Gonzalez to snap what was one of the best stretches of the veteran reliever’s MLB career.

Storen took the mound in the top of the eighth and made quick work of Rockies’ left fielder Kyle Parker. Then Colorado summoned a familiar foe to pinch-hit for the pitcher. Daniel Descalso, who landed the game-tying hit off Storen in Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS back when he was with St. Louis, stepped into the box.

Descalso worked a walk and was joined on base by Jose Reyes, who singled to right field, one out later. Nolan Arenado then reached on a slow grounder that rolled to the left of the pitcher’s mound.

That brought up Gonzalez, the Rockies’ cleanup hitter who is among the most dangerous hitters in baseball when he’s at his best. Storen started the count with a fastball inside for a ball. Then he served up a 94 mile per hour heater that stayed up and in. Gonzalez got every bit of it and pelted the ball off the backwall of the Nats’ bullpen in right field. It was a no-doubter and it turned the game from a three-run Nats’ lead to a one-run deficit.

“I just had a couple things … a couple guys get on base for various reasons and then make one bad pitch, a fastball come over the plate to a really good hitter. It’s kind of the nature of the business,” Storen explained.

“He’s had a very good season for us, it just wasn’t his night,” Matt Williams said. “Just made a mistake to a guy who has recently been really hot and has power. It’s the game of baseball.”

Storen wanted the fastball to stay further inside, but it hung just enough over the plate for Gonzalez to turn on it. Gonzalez said afterwards he was waiting for the pitch.

“The way they pitched me the whole night I was kind of prepared for that fastball middle-in,” he said. “I’m hitting in the cleanup spot and that’s what we get paid to do.”

The loss leaves the Nationals at 56-52 on the season and losers of six of their last eight. They are 2 1/2 games behind the New York Mets for the first time since May 12 and now sit four games out of the last NL Wild Card spot.

This particular loss was as stunning as any this season with the way their fortunes turned so quickly. It continued what has been a trying week for a team that hasn’t found their way since the All-Star break. So far they have failed to take advantage of a homestand against sub-.500 teams, a troubling sign given they play at the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants following this weekend.

All that said, the Nationals remain adamant about not worrying about the big picture just yet.

“Storen came out with his best, and CarGo came out with his best. Sometimes you’ve got to tip your cap to the best in the game, and CarGo’s one of them,” Harper said. “Hopefully we can go back out there tomorrow and go get them tomorrow and see where we’re at at the end of the day.”

  1. stoatva - Aug 8, 2015 at 12:09 AM

    Incredibly, Storen has given up only 11 runs all season, but seven of them were on two swings of the bat.

  2. Karl Kolchak - Aug 8, 2015 at 12:50 AM

    The season is now 2/3rds over, so there is no more “it’s still early” to fall back on. The Fister move at least shows that the team knows it is fighting to avoid getting buried right now.

    A few more Fister-like changes they ought to try:

    1). Platoon Espinosa with Desmond at SS at let the former start against lefties.

    2). Bench Werth for Robinson until Span returns–then slide Taylor over to LF.

    3). Bat Rendon cleanup when Span returns so that the top of the order goes: Span-Escobar-Harper-Rendon-Zimmerman.

    4). Bat Taylor ahead of Ramos (they have approximately the same number of ABs, but Taylor has 1 more HR and his OPS is nearly 40 points higher).

    Probably wouldn’t make that much of a difference, but the time for deferring to veterans who are not getting the job done is over.

    • Nats Fan Zee - Aug 8, 2015 at 8:57 AM

      Well done!

    • Section 222 - Aug 8, 2015 at 11:28 AM

      I really like your analysis usually Karl, but I disagree with all of your suggestions above.

      1. Why deprive Desi of all opportunities to bat against lefties. I’m in favor of keeping TTB, Desi, and Esco fresh by giving them days off and letting the versatile Espi fill in — get him at least 3 starts a week.
      2. No. CRob is too big a liability in LF. (Even more than Werth, which is saying something.) Werth needs some time to get going, but I think he will. And neither MAT nor CRob is hitting so well that they have forced their way into the lineup. Giving Werth a rest every 4 or 5 games makes sense though, especially once Span returns.
      3. After Harper returns, I like Harper hitting cleanup, especially after Span returns. I want TTB concentrating on barreling the ball up, not trying to hit homers. Zim is coming around, batting him 3rd or 4th is fine for now.
      4. Actually, I don’t really disagree with this one. I just don’t think it matters that much. Taylor getting on base in front of the pitcher isn’t bad — a steal and a sacrifice gets him to third.

    • JayB - Aug 8, 2015 at 12:00 PM

      Exactly…was over months ago….hate the fact that Werth, Zimm, Ian and Ramos get a pass always on any poor performance, plan, effort, mental mistake….whatever they do it is “just baseball” according to MW….nothing could possible be done to improve the team in MW view…..Werth is clearly done….DFA him and payoff the bad contract…nothing good is going to come from the back end of playing him everyday because he makes so much money.

  3. scmargenau - Aug 8, 2015 at 1:24 AM

    3). Bat Rendon cleanup when Span returns so that the top of the order goes: Span-Escobar-Harper-Rendon-Zimmerman.

    I like it!

    • simalex - Aug 8, 2015 at 1:47 AM

      I would go, Span-Redon-Harper-Escobar, but yeah, i like all of these ideas.

  4. nats1924 - Aug 8, 2015 at 6:38 AM

    And people were sticking up for Storen to be the closer??

    Hes garbage!

    We need to stop being nice and face the fact that he choked both in 2012 and 2014. Trade him for anything!

    • chaz11963 - Aug 8, 2015 at 10:28 AM

      Have you looked at Storen’s stats? Garbage? Really? Choked in 2012 and 2014? Really? I guess that’s the simplistic narrative, but fails to understand the complete picture.

      Look- this was a tough loss. These losses happen. This one came at an unfortunate time. The Nats are going to be fine. As a team, they are actually beginning to get better and better; more of what we expected at the beginning of the season.

      • JayB - Aug 8, 2015 at 12:02 PM

        see 2013 apologists posts for citation…..this is plagiarism if you do not cite it

  5. Another_Sam - Aug 8, 2015 at 6:48 AM

    This loss doesn’t bother me like the no offense losses. This one – that’s baseball.

    MW and a lot of managers seem to me to stick with pitchers long beyond the signal that it’s clear they don’t have it.

  6. natsfan1a - Aug 8, 2015 at 7:12 AM

    Eh, the late-inning bullpen blows do get to me. That [stunk].

  7. nattygoats - Aug 8, 2015 at 7:25 AM

    2. Two is the number of men who are allowed on base before you go get your reliever. Especially when it’s right on left. Nobody has a clipboard looking at stats? How about a matchup thing? But either way Storen vomited it away.

  8. nattygoats - Aug 8, 2015 at 7:26 AM

    How about a 4 out save?. Oh wait that’s thinking outside the box. MW can’t do that.

  9. nattygoats - Aug 8, 2015 at 7:29 AM

    If a guy comes in with a 1 run lead and blows it then OK it happens. But a 3 run lead allowed you the opportunity to realize he didn’t have it. So pull him

  10. veejh - Aug 8, 2015 at 7:47 AM

    So, we hadn’t hit the bottom yet. This has to be it.

  11. laddieblahblah - Aug 8, 2015 at 7:55 AM

    Today is the first day of the 2nd week in August. The offense has been scoring enough runs to win most games, but the staff has seen one of their pitchers blow up an inning, over and over again, starting with the Mets series – e.g. JZ’s 5 or 6 pitch meltdown that produced 3 HRs after a bad call by the home plate ump went against him. Fister has been a multiple game perpetrator, but we have seen Storen, Barrett, Janssen, Roark, and even Super Max lose it for single inning disasters. The Nats would have won, and should have won, the majority of those games had the staff held up its end.

    By the end of next week we will be in mid-August. This next week is do or die time, if the Nats keep doing their perfect imitation of the 2014 Braves, while the Mets keep on like the 2014 Nats.

    Start winning now.

  12. raleighnat - Aug 8, 2015 at 8:28 AM

    With Mets comeback win we are now 2.5 back. And we have been losing ground while playing the d backs and Rockies. This whole situation doesn’t feel good. Call me officially very worried.

  13. Candide - Aug 8, 2015 at 8:35 AM

    The baseball gods do not look kindly on those who do not show the proper respect for the game.

    In the – what was it, the 6th or 7th inning? – the chowderheads over near the batter’s eye started doing the damn wave.

    I bitched about it, loudly, whereupon a guy behind me said doing the wave was all right “when you have a safe lead.” I prayed in the name of all that was holy that the baseball gods had not heard his rank impertinence.

    The ckuffing wave went around the park FIVE CKUFFING TIMES before it finally petered out. Everyone was having a great old time.

    The baseball gods take particular delight in punishing “fans” who are more interested in watching all the other “fans” so they can jump up and sit down at just the right moment, than in watching what is happening on the field.

    “Obviously you do not care what happens on the field,” the gods say. “So we decree that the punishment for your flagrant disrespect shall be particularly ironic. Your team’s opponents shall score one run for each time your ridiculous wave went around the park.”

    “So let it be written. So let it be done.”

    • natsnatsnatswoo - Aug 8, 2015 at 9:01 AM

      You could play that game at home, too. The MASN word of the day was “wave” – I kid you not. Text in and win. And you could plainly see the high rollers in the Presidents Club joining in heartily each time it rolled around.

      As Matt Williams would say “It’s the game of baseball.” Drew Storen would agree. “It’s kind of the nature of the business.” Yes, do the wave all you want. But by God, don’t ever boo one of your own players, even if he throws the ball down the first base line for a three-base error.

      Is there any doubt why no team in this town ever wins anything? There shouldn’t be.

    • Nats Fan Zee - Aug 8, 2015 at 9:03 AM

      I gave away my tickets last night after Wednesday night’s folly. I now feel sorry for the family I gifted them to.

      • rlndtln - Aug 8, 2015 at 9:17 AM

        veejh.Maybe you will finally get it and realize all I have predicted and including the Mets are the NL best with the best chance of going all the way.Iknew this was coming by watching the game longer than you were born.This is a team with no aging stars and a pitching staff that is vastly overrated.MW as a manger is really a bench coach and will be gone after the season.Reality is the key word here and a lot of you do not have it.We had our best chance in 12 and to a lesser degree in 14.That train has left the station.Fister,JZIM,,Denard and Desi are done as Nats.Time to start all over and with a new manager.

      • veejh - Aug 8, 2015 at 10:30 AM

        We’re 2 and a half games back. This team could flip the script at any moment. The talent is there. Stay positive.

      • Section 222 - Aug 8, 2015 at 11:30 AM

        You’re right of course, veejh. But telling rlndxxxx to stay positive is like telling Desi to stop swinging from his heels or MNF to spell check his comments before pressing “Post comment.”

  14. Theophilus T.S. - Aug 8, 2015 at 9:16 AM

    Harper did not look good in the last AB. As a whole, however, his major problem is that Zimmerman’s historic accomplishments/his reputation are not providing opposing pitchers any incentive to pitch to Harper. Pitch pattern to Harper in the 9th was classic: snuck a FB over on first pitch; 0-1 pitch was a foot-and-a half outside. Next pitch was a slider that was way low out of the zone and Harper whiffed badly. Even with his contributions the last week or so, Zimmerman is no better than a .250 hitter. This has been the pattern all season — Harper’s 80 BB are as much the product of the weak sisters batting behind him as they are the result of his superior batting eye. Walks by the only bona fide power hitter in the lineup don’t produce the kind of offense this team needs. Stare downs w/ umpires don’t drive runners across the plate.

    The idea to bat Rendon cleanup should be implemented immediately, even though he doesn’t seem to have much power (yet) — whether Span comes back or not.

    Storen without question bears the responsibility for last night’s debacle. But once again the Nats flailed against a crap pitcher who should have been on the ropes from the first inning on.

    • rlndtln - Aug 8, 2015 at 9:19 AM

      That is 2 aging stars .my mistake.

  15. Another_Sam - Aug 8, 2015 at 9:31 AM

    You guys think Werth is still at a lot less than 100%? He’s been a steady warning track fly ball hitter since returning, it seems like.

    • unkyd59 - Aug 8, 2015 at 10:26 AM

      Following the wrist injury, I wouldn’t expect much more power, this year. But Werth is a professional hitter… What if he were to treat every pitch like there’re two strikes, shortening up his swing, and fouling off anything close, finding a rhythm, and spraying singles all over the place, taking ball 4 when he sees it. We’ve seen it time and again, late in games, but it just seems like a plausible strategy, no…?

      • stoatva - Aug 8, 2015 at 10:39 AM

        For this reason I sort of expected to see him batting 2nd on his return.

      • Another_Sam - Aug 8, 2015 at 11:00 AM

        UNK – what you describe surely sounds plausible here from our armchairs, but it must surely be not that easy to the guys who must step into the box every day. haha. Your proposal seems like a good approach for every hitter to me, from my armchair.

      • unkyd59 - Aug 8, 2015 at 11:30 AM

        Sam, it’s not like it’s a new approach for him… we’ve all seen him apply this in certain ABs, so given that he is unlikely to have more than “warning track power”, yes, it does seem plausible. Not asking him to come up with a new swing strategy, just to utilize one he’s somewhat accustomed to…

  16. Tim Harrison - Aug 8, 2015 at 4:54 PM

    Lots of hate and discouragement here – understandedly.

    -Desi is getting hot… let him play.
    -Espi is MVP. Very versatile and able to spell every infielder if necessary.
    -we need Span badly to set the table! Batting order when he returns: Span, Rendon, Escobar, Harper, Zimmerman, Werth, Desi, Ramos, pitcher. Period. No platoon, but stability for the stretch run.

    The pre-8th Inning bullpen is a wreck. Not sure if it’s good enough for playoff baseball.

    Playoffs? Playoff!?!

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