CHICAGO — While Chien-Ming Wang was rediscovering the pitch that defined his major league career, Nationals closer Drew Storen was sitting in the bullpen at Wrigley Field, watching in awe.
“Coming back from shoulder surgery, it’s tough to say where a guy can be,” Storen said. “He was dominating.”
The wind was blowing straight out to right field, the ball flew off the Nationals bats twice — first when Michael Morse hit an absolutely bomb to straightaway center that bounced off the top of the batter’s eye and second two batters later when Jonny Gomes crushed a two-run shot just over the wall in left — and Wang held the Cubs hitless into the sixth inning.
Three innings later, Storen entered, carrying with him his first 29 saves of the season — a season that began with him in a setup role, with an undefined closer. When it was over, after Storen gave up a one-out walk to Carlos Pena, struck out Marlon Byrd and then used two ridiculous sliders to get Alfonso Soriano to fly out to end it, Storen became only the second National ever to reach the 30 save plateau.
“It’s weird,” he said. “It’s something I never really thought about until now.
“It’s been a long year. Starting in the setup role and whatnot and working my through in the ‘pen, it really means a lot. The nice thing about what I do, when I do my job, we win. That’s the most gratifying thing about it. If it goes well, I’m a happy camper.”
Storen, an Indiana-native, had a large collection of friends and family in the stands, including his parents. In essence the 30th save is just a number, just one of the 30 that helped him get to this point, but it also represents a benchmark for Storen — and the Nationals. The last closer to notch 30 or more saves in a season was Chad Cordero, who set a franchise record with 47 in 2005.
“He was an unbelievable closer,” Storen said. “To be in the same ballpark as him, it’s kind of an honor. And to be my first full year in the big leagues. I’m very happy and very thankful. And it’s not just me. I’ve had a lot of help along the way, and I get a lot of help every night.”
With save No. 30 in the books, Storen moved into a tie with former National Joel Hanrahan for sixth in the National League this season. Braves rookie Craig Kimbrel leads the league with 36.