The situation was familiar. The pressure was “comfortable,” as Drew Storen put it.
Summoned in the eighth inning with no outs and runners on second and third, the Nationals needed Storen. They needed him to keep their two-run lead, needed him to stave off what could’ve been their sixth straight loss.
And Storen did.
“I mean Storen won the game for us,” said Nationals manager Davey Johnson. “He had to go through a very hot middle of their order and he made great pitches and got us out of that jam. That won the game.”
It was easily the highest-pressure situation he’s been in since coming back from the disabled list and it was an extremely positive sign for both he and the Nationals that he got through it in a fashion befitting the guy who saved 43 games in 2011.
“It felt good,” Storen said. “I’m still getting there. I think it’s another step forward. Each time is just taking a step forward, and we’ll see when it stops. Hopefully it just keeps getting better and better. Physically, I feel better than I ever have been.
“My stuff’s there, and my command’s getting there. Pitching in spots like tonight, that’s going to be the biggest thing coming back.”
The most entertaining moment of the inning came with Giancarlo Stanton at the plate. The two are familiar with one another. Storen had faced Stanton 11 times before Wednesday night and he’d allowed him just two hits.
Storen got up 0-2 quickly, threw him a ball and then offered him a sinker far inside. Stanton turned on it and ripped it foul down the third base line.
And then he threw Stanton a slider 12 mph slower than the sinker had been. Stanton swung threw it for strike three.
“That was a lot of fun more than anything,” Storen said. “He’s got a quick bat. I was trying to get in on him, and he’s got unbelievable power and unbelievable hands. He didn’t think too much of a fastball on the inside half, apparently, so luckily that thing stayed foul. I guess it’s just a strike.”
Johnson said his heart never skipped a beat, even as Stanton’s powerful bat made contact, trusting fully that Storen’s pitch was in the right spot.
“He threw the pitch where it needed to be pitched,” Johnson said. “It was inside off the plate in. The only place he’s going to really hit that is down the line foul. But that got him off the breaking ball. Next time he threw him a breaking ball and got him out. Great effort.”