Aug 10, 2015, 8:27 AM EDT
Life as a late-inning reliever is such that whenever a miscue occurs — however rare it might be — it’ll tend to be remembered far more often than a long stretch of dominance.
That’s very much the case these days for Drew Storen, whose back-to-back tough outings against the Colorado Rockies has already begun to induce panic for parts of the Nationals fanbase. For sure, the 27-year-old right hander had an off weekend, surrendering a lead Friday night on an eighth inning go-ahead grand slam by Carlos Gonzalez and yielding a two-run single from DJ LeMahieu Sunday afternoon that broke a 4-4 tie.
But when gauging the clubhouse reaction to his struggles, it’s clear that Storen has had the kind of season that has given him the benefit of the doubt among his teammates.
“He’s still great. He’s an amazing pitcher,” Anthony Rendon said after Sunday’s loss. “He’s had like, two [bad] games? He has what, 30 saves? You’re going to quit on him already?”
Indeed, prior to the Rockies series, Storen had retired 15 of the first 16 hitters he faced since becoming the team’s setup man. Going back to before the trade for closer Jonathan Papelbon, he hadn’t allowed a run in 14 straight appearances before his blown save/loss Friday night vs. Colorado.
“Drew’s fine,” said Ryan Zimmerman. “To go a whole year without having any sort of rough patch or a couple bad games is unheard of for relievers most of the time. He’ll be fine. He’s the least of our worries.”
It’s a valid point that over the course of a 162-game season, it’s pretty difficult to avoid a rough patch of some kind — no matter who you are. But unfortunately for the Nats, Storen’s dry spell comes at the worst possible time, with the club scuffling as a whole in the midst of a pennant race with the NL East-leading New York Mets.
“We have bad games,” Rendon said. “It’s not like we go out there saying ‘oh, we’re going to give it up today’ or ‘I’m going to strike out three times today’. It’s baseball. Sometimes you get a hit, sometimes you strike out.”
While this past weekend could wind up being no more than a blip on the radar, the Nats know they need Storen to quickly return to being the lockdown eighth-inning option he must be in order to maintain what the team believes can be a dynamic back-end of the bullpen.
“I think that’s it important for us to realize where Drew has been and how important he’s been for us,” said manager Matt Williams, “and to continue to show the confidence we have in him. It’s important for us to do that as a team.”
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
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As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
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