Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Losing Confidence in Storen?

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

On Monday this week, I wrote about the Nats "closer" Drew Storen. I say "closer" because the Nats are still embracing the closer by committee situation with him and Sean Burnett. But in the non-save situation on Tuesday night, and a 5 run lead for the Nats, it was the perfect opportunity to give Storen some confidence.

Storen threw heat at times, nibbled at times, but for the most part, he attacked hitters as he should with a 5 run lead. He surrendered a home run to Astros third baseman Chris Johnson, but it was irrelevant. It was a solo shot. The Nats were still up by 4. Riggleman stuck with him.

Then, Storen flashed some leather on a nice defensive grab on a chopper back to the mound. There were 2 outs. And for some reason, instead of throwing nothing but bullets for strikes, he pitched around Jason Castro and walked him. Castro is barely hitting above .200.

While an inexcusable mistake by Storen, there was just 1 runner on base, with a 4 run lead still in tact with 2 outs. Riggs had other thoughts and he pulled Storen in favor of Sean Burnett. In his post game press conference, Riggleman said, "I felt like the best way to get that next out was to bring Burnett in.... I was a little more confident that [Burnett] coming in fresh there to face a guy off the bench, turning him around right handed, was a little more to our liking."

Sure, Sean Burnett has been incredible in the bullpen. And yes, he got the final out of the game on just 1 pitch when he came in. But did Jim Riggleman have such little confidence in Drew Storen that he decided to pull him with a 4 run lead? The tying run was still in the hole at that point.

As I said on Monday, the difference between being a closer and being a middle reliever is mental. Entirely mental. So what does it say when the manager says, "we're gonna go with someone else here, even though you got us 2 outs and we're up by 4"? To me it says, "we're not confident you can finish this game." I have a feeling that's what it says to Drew Storen, too.

Either way, the Nats got the Curly W, avoiding a 5 game losing streak. More importantly, the Nats cannot lose 100 games this season! Sound the alarms, tell your friends, kiss your spouse, "Yes We Did!" and all that. The Nats are a triple-digit loss team no more in 2010.

Now if they could just figure out who was going to close games for them, it'd be one more step in the right direction toward 100 wins instead.

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