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This was a night the Washington Nationals needed. Their beaten and beleaguered bullpen arms could only take so much. The extra-inning games, the one-run contests, the grueling stretch of schedule, it was all catching up with them.
As the ball barreled toward one of the many left center field crevices at Minute Maid Park, it carried with it the weight of an entire game. Four hours of baseball. Three hundred and 63 pitches. Twelve innings. The best record in the major leagues, a 3-2 victory, a 2-0 start to the Washington Nationals' longest road trip of the second half.
Drew Storen was just sitting in the bullpen Saturday holding a baseball when something clicked. Gripping the ball the way he usually did to throw his change-up, a pitch he had been working on improving since the end of the 2011 season, Storen shifted his fingers in the slightest of ways. The comfort was immediate.
Davey Johnson sat in front of an oversized red microphone late Friday night and looked as defeated as he has since he pulled a Curly 'W' windbreaker over his 69-year-old frame for the first time 13 months ago.
On a dreary Saturday afternoon at Nationals Park that seemed befitting of the mood that descended around them, the Washington Nationals needed a savior. They needed a spark.
The fact that Pedro Beato threw a breaking ball was not a surprise. In the two-plus innings the New York Mets relievers pitched Tuesday night, they'd fed the Washington Nationals a steady diet of those. Curveballs from Bobby Parnell, sliders from Tim Byrdak and more curveballs from Beato.
The Washington Nationals' bullpen has been nearly impenetrable for the first half of the season, but Sunday it left the door open at the most inopportune of times.
The irony of the trot Michael Morse broke into as he rounded first base in the eighth inning Friday night was the conversation he'd had mere minutes before.
The Washington Nationals designated struggling reliever Brad Lidge for assignment Sunday and activated reliever Ryan Mattheus.