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Storen happy to thrive in setup role

Storen happy to thrive in setup role

Drew Storen has pitched in plenty of pressure situations during his three major-league seasons, most of them coming in the ninth inning with his team clinging to a slim lead.

Something about Wednesday night's appearance, though, felt more significant than perhaps any of the 146 previous ones Storen made for the Nationals. Even though it occurred in the eighth inning.

Summoned by manager Davey Johnson to face the heart of the Marlins' lineup with two runners in scoring position and the Nationals leading 6-4, Storen proceeded to retire all three batters he faced and hold that lead heading into the ninth.

Was that an especially big outing for the 25-year-old reliever?

"I think it was," Storen said. "I think the biggest thing for me was I didn't get over-amped. That's kind of the biggest thing that I looked at as the biggest positive. Because it's easy to get in those situations and get fired up ... so it's a step forward for me. I didn't feel like I tried to do too much, and that's kind of the way I look at it."

Nearly five months removed from surgery to remove a bone chip from his elbow and more than a month since he returned to the mound, Storen finally appears to be back to his old self. After battling inconsistent command from one appearance to the next, he's retired all 10 batters faced over his last four games.

"I think he's all the way back," Johnson said.

All the way back, though, doesn't necessarily mean Storen will be given his old job back. With Tyler Clippard continuing to pitch effectively as the Nationals' closer, Johnson plans to keep Storen in a setup role, with perhaps the occasional ninth inning thrown his way if Clippard needs a break.

"This is not diminishing how much I like Drew," Johnson said. "It's just that we've got another guy that's doing a great job, too. There may be a time when I have back-to-back situations for Clip, and I like the way the lineup comes up for Drew. Clippard's tongue may not be hanging out when I let Storen close."

There was a point earlier this summer when Storen admittedly felt he deserved to pitch the ninth inning. He's since come to realize he wasn't ready for that responsibility. And even though he's pitching well enough to close games, he understands he's just as valuable to the Nationals pitching in tense, setup situations like he did Wednesday night.

"You look at a lot of the situations last year, a lot of my saves should have gone to Clip, because he was coming in in situations like that and he would essentially lock down the game, and then I'd kind of just put the icing on it," Storen said. "That's just kind of how it was. That's what happens, even in the seventh, eighth and ninth. A lot of times, the save isn't in the ninth. Sometimes, it's before.

"I always joked with Clip last year: 'Dude, you probably got more saves last year than I did.' That's just kind of how it is, and that's the beauty of having a good bullpen."

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Nationals stage spirited rally in ninth but fall just short in series opener vs. Cubs

Nationals stage spirited rally in ninth but fall just short in series opener vs. Cubs

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Wade Davis struck out batting leader Ryan Zimmerman with runners on second and third to end Washington's ninth-inning rally, and the Chicago Cubs held off the Nationals 5-4 Monday night.

In jeopardy of being shut out for the first time this season, the NL East-leading Nationals scored four times in the ninth. Their comeback began against Hector Rondon and continued when Davis entered.

MORE: CSN'S UPDATED MLB POWER RANKINGS

With Washington down 5-3, Bryce Harper's single loaded the bases with two outs. Davis threw a wild pitch that scored a run before striking out a swinging Zimmerman, who's hitting .344. The final pitch bounced, and catcher Willson Contreras zipped a low throw to first baseman Anthony Rizzo to close out the victory.

Contreras hit a leadoff home run in his first career game-opening at-bat and Eddie Butler (4-2) worked five scoreless innings to keep the Cubs ahead.

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2017 MLB Power Rankings: The Dodgers don't lose anymore

2017 MLB Power Rankings: The Dodgers don't lose anymore

The Dodgers are living their best life right now. 

Cody Bellinger looks like he's just going to go and hit two home runs a game for the rest of the year, Yasiel Puig is fun again and they're fresh off a 10-game win streak. Kenley Jansen went 112 batters without issuing a walk. All of this is coming, by the way, during a year when Clayton Kershaw is more Very Good than he is Great.

It's a good time to be a fan of an incredibly young and talented team in a top-5 market with a well-regarded front office that's been written a blank check. How did everyone not named the Dodgers do this week? To the rankings! 

2017 MLB POWER RANKINGS

30. PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

2017 Record: 24-49
Previous Ranking: 30
Last 10 Games: 3-7
Notable Performance:  Maikel Franco (.333/.419/.481 last week)

And there goes Maikel Franco, right back on the trade block. The Phillies' rebuild is starting to look a lot murkier. 

29. SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

2017 Record: 27-50
Previous Ranking: 29
Last 10 Games: 1-9
Notable Performance: Brandon Belt (.316/.409/.947 last week)

It's weird to see the Giants play THIS poorly. Johnny Cueto is arguably the best available starter on the trade market though, and that obviously bodes well for their future. 

28. CINCINNATI REDS

2017 Record: 29-38
Previous Ranking: 27
Last 10 Games: 1-9
Notable Performance: Joey Votto (.360/.385/.680 last week)

When you go 1-9 over the last 10 and let the Nats put an 18-spot on you, you drop a spot or two in the rankings. Them's the rules. 

27. SAN DIEGO PADRES

2017 Record: 31-44
Previous Ranking: 29
Last 10 Games: 6-4
Notable Performance: Yangervis Solarte (.364/.462/.909 last week)

In an annual July tradition, the Padres will fleece someone for one of their relievers. Brad Hand in a Dodgers uniform, anyone? 

26. DETROIT TIGERS

2017 Record: 32-42
Previous Ranking: 15
Last 10 Games: 2-8
Notable Performance: Miguel Cabrera (.400/.444/.840 last week)

The Tigers are our biggest fallers of the week. 2-8 in their last 10, including a frustrating Perfect Game bid broken up by a bunt single. Not their best week. 

SEE THE REST OF THE RANKINGS HERE