DENVER — When the bullpen doors opened Sunday afternoon at Coors Field, Nationals closer Drew Storen knew what he’d be walking into. Bottom of the ninth, one-run game, heart of the Rockies order due up.
It got even better for the 23-year-old when Troy Tulowitzki walked to the plate with two outs and the two went to battle in a six-pitch at-bat where Tulowitzki fouled off two straight 0-2 pitches — including a long foul down the right field line — and then got caught looking at a 1-2 sinker outside at the knees.
Storen, who is usually not one for extreme celebrations, offered one of the most excited fist pumps of the season as soon as the umpire signaled that his gamble had paid off and Tulowitzki would indeed be sitting down with the game’s final out.
So why the grand show of emotion on his 29th save of the season?
“It’s Tulo,” Storen said, a smile plastered to his face. “He’s an unbelievable hitter. It was just a battle.”
“That was one of the most fun at-bats, I think of the whole year,” he added. “He’s an unbelievable hitter and I wanted to throw that pitch and I got lucky and executed it. If I miss with that pitch at all, he hits it out. That’s a big win for us.
“(I was) pretty fired up — but any time I can go head to head with two outs in a one-run lead against a hitter like that, that’s what I live for.”
It wasn’t lost on Storen that it was a pitch he need to not only execute perfectly but also get called his way — “high risk, high reward pitch.” The pitch was on the outer edge of the strike zone and could have easily been called a ball just as much as a strike. It was truly umpire’s discretion and, as Storen put it: “I was really happy all around.”
Storen is now just one save away from 30 this season, the most since Chad Cordero’s 37 in 2007. He’s blown just four all season.
“Just to get any of them makes me happy,” Storen said. “I didn’t really have a goal coming into the year. I just kind of wanted to be a big part of the bullpen. The fact that I can get up to where I am now, I’m really happy with it, but I’m not completely satisfied. I still want some more, still hungry for some more.”