- The Washington Times - Monday, May 25, 2015

The nature of Drew Storen’s job is such that he is only really noticed when he fails. When he enters the game with a narrow lead and loses it, the cameras seek him out. Blame falls squarely on his shoulders. But when he pitches one scoreless ninth inning after another, like clockwork, the praise goes elsewhere.

Then, suddenly, it’s late May and Storen is leading the National League with 15 saves. His ERA through 21 appearances is a minuscule 0.89, a better start than even his stellar 2014. He has allowed only one extra-base hit in 20 1/3 innings. He is pitching with supreme confidence, and teammates can see it.

“I just see that we’re going to get the save,” catcher Jose Lobaton said Sunday. “You’re like, ‘OK, we got Drew.’ He’s our best pitcher now. Kind of like, ‘Yeah, just make the ninth inning and we’re going to win.’ That’s what you want. You want a closer like that.”

Storen posted a 1.12 ERA in 65 games last season, beginning the year in a seventh-inning role and finishing it as the team’s closer. This year, he has been even better. The 27-year-old hasn’t allowed a hit in six of his past nine appearances, and he hasn’t given up a run since April 21.

Manager Matt Williams said the movement on Storen’s offspeed pitches has been especially crisp in recent weeks, allowing him to better set up the fastball. Storen said throwing his breaking ball low in the strike zone has been key.

“The big thing for me is being able to throw it for a strike, but then throw the good one down in the zone that looks like a heater for a majority of the way,” he explained. “That’s when you get the good swing-throughs, because anytime you got a loop in it, you’re going to have some trouble with it. Being able to locate it for a strike has really, I think, been the most important thing.”


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Storen only pitched in three of the season’s first nine games as the Nationals stumbled out of the gate. Now, they have won eight consecutive series and 20 of their past 25 games overall. The winning streak has resulted in more regular work for Storen, allowing him to establish a rhythm as spring turns to summer and Washington inches closer to the midway point of the season.

“He feels good physically,” Williams said of Storen. “With relievers and closers especially, the more work they get, the more rhythm they have. Often times, unfortunately, they sit for a couple, three days, and that’s just the way the game goes. But the more work he gets, the crisper, the more crisp he is when he’s throwing his pitches.”

After his start Sunday, Gio Gonzalez revealed that Storen’s been doing a bit of coaching, too. Because of the similarities in their mechanics, Gonzalez said Storen was able to offer a few tips before Sunday’s game. The left-hander proceeded to limit the Philadelphia Phillies to only one run over 6 1/3 innings in a 4-1 victory, a bounce-back win after Saturday’s lopsided loss.

He threw one inning in the 2-1 road victory over the Chicago Cubs on Monday afternoon, striking out Jorge Soler to end the game despite opening the inning by hitting Kris Bryant.

“It just shows you that we haven’t been riding the roller coaster this year,” Storen said. “We just show up to the clubhouse the same people every day. We’re having fun and just going out and doing our thing, not really worrying about yesterday, what happened yesterday and whatnot. Just dealing with the task at hand.”

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