It Couldn’t Have Happened a Better Way

It didn’t happen for the Washington Nationals until game 158, but it happened, and it can’t have happened in a better game. The way the Nationals game against the Cardinals on September 29 started set it up to be a night of theĀ bizarre. With one out and the bases full Michael Morse hit a deep drive that at first was ruled a single with Morse getting thrown out trying to retreat to first. Nationals fans had seen this before when the ground rules of Citizens Bank Park cost Adam LaRoche a homer. Busch Stadium is not Citizens Bank Park and the wall beyond the fence is a homerun in that stadium, and so once the umpires reviewed the call they awarded Morse a grand slam.

The umpires also made the Nationals players all return to the base they originally occupied and round the bases after Morse took a fake swing. It was a night destined to be weird. It would continue later in the game after the Nats allowed the Cardinals to hang around and chip away at their four run lead. The Cardinals would catch the Nats in the ninth inning when Storen allowed a sac fly to score the tying run, and this is where the greatness of this game isĀ culminated.

Storen is a good enough pitcher that he rarely suffers complete meltdowns. He blew five saves in 2011 as the closer and all five times the Nationals came back and won the game. When Storen blows a save he rarely blows the game. It is one of the reasons that in 2011 among his five blown saves two of them were blown save, wins. Storen has a consistency that other relievers the Nats have used in the ninth lack. When Clippard is on he is untouchable, but when he is off it is not a pretty sight. The same can be said for Henry Rodriguez, but Storen is a different bread. It is rare to witness a complete meltdown on the mound by Drew Storen.

So after allowing the tying run to score Storen struck out the next batter and would set up the events of the top of the tenth inning. With a runner on second, two outs, and Danny Espinosa at the plate Cardinals manager, Mike Matheny, decided to intentionally walk Espinosa to get to Kurt Suzuki. This move is a bit puzzling as Espinosa is the better hitter, but not by a wide enough margin to even consider intentionally walking him to pitcher to Kurt Suzuki, but yet Matheny felt this move gave him an advantage.

Suzuki promptly made the move look as bad as it was as he rifled a double off the left field wall scoring both base runners. Craig Stammen would then come in to close out the game, lower the Nationals magic number to one, and give Drew Storen and the Nationals their first blown save, win of the 2012 season. There is no better way for a team to earn a blown save, win than with their rightful closer on the mound, against a team he has had more than a few interesting games against, and in a game in which a pretend grand slam was hit.