The last time Drew Storen walked off a pitcher’s mound in postseason play, the Indiana native allowed four runs in the ninth inning and capped off the biggest single-game collapse in playoff elimination game history.
Two years later, the Washington Nationals are back in the National League Division Series, with Storen as the closer.
The Washington Nationals will host the San Francisco Giants this afternoon in the first of two scheduled NLDS contests today. The other series has the St. Louis Cardinals visiting the City of Angels to face to Dodgers. Stephen Strasburg, who was drafted in the same first round as Storen, has been tabbed as the Game 1 starter.
Storen has had a rollercoaster of a ride since the Nats’ 2012 playoff meltdown against the Cardinals. The Stanford product had similar issues with former Astros closer Brad Lidge, who took a few years to recover after allowing a memorable playoff home run to Albert Pujols.
Storen struggled at the beginning of the 2013 season, losing his role as closer and was eventually demoted to the minors. He eventually made it back to the show and regained his closer role last month.
Storen has had a fantastic 2014 campaign, mostly pitching in the seventh inning in front of Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano. But after Soriano scuffled during the season’s second half, Storen once again got the ball in the ninth inning. Since taking over as the closer on September 7th, the 27-year old converted all 10 save opportunities, striking out 10 batters without conceding a walk.
Overall, Storen recorded a 1.12 ERA in 56 1/3 innings, displaying impressive control and keeping the ball in the yard.
This season, Storen returned to his 2012 form. He’s been able to throw both his fastball and slider for strikes in any count, keeping hitters off-balance. Storen’s much-improved change-up has provided a third weapon to an already daunting arsenal.
His success, along with Soriano’s failures, means he’ll most likely be back for the 2015 season while Soriano’s team option will be declined. Storen, however, has this season to worry about.
Storen told Sports Illustrated that he relishes the high pressure situations that come with being a closer. “You’re either going to be a hero or a zero, and that’s why I love it.” Storen would love his role even more if there was a pitcher-friendly umpire behind home plate, as a couple of pitches that could have been strikes were ruled balls by Alfonso Marquez.
Lidge’s playoff career went full-circle three years later, when he recorded the last out of the 2008 World Series with the Philadelphia Phillies, giving the city its first championship in 28 years.
Storen can only hope for a similar story this season.
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