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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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2017 ballpark foods that are way better than peanuts and Cracker Jack

2017 ballpark foods that are way better than peanuts and Cracker Jack

Back in the olden days, cotton candy or a plate of nachos were considered bold ballpark snacks. Thankfully, the olden days are over, and a new era of ballpark food has begun.

And in this era, a menu item isn't considered complete until it's fried, sandwiched between something else and then finally drizzled with some sort of sauce. 

So, what's on the menu for 2017? Well, peanuts, hot dogs and apple pie nachos, of course.

CLICK HERE TO FEAST YOUR EYES ON THE CRAZIEST BALLPARK FOODS YOU'LL FIND AROUND MLB THIS YEAR

With a new season about to begin, CSNmidatlantic.com has identified 10 of the most eye-popping and artery-clogging foods available around Major League Baseball in 2017. To see them, simply click on the link above or below to open our gallery (no fork and knife necessary).

After all, while peanuts and Cracker Jack are cute, they simply can't match up with a hot dog topped with bacon and a fried egg. 

CLICK HERE TO FEAST YOUR EYES ON THE CRAZIEST BALLPARK FOODS YOU'LL FIND AROUND MLB THIS YEAR

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Nationals Ace Max Scherzer will not be team's opening day starter

Nationals Ace Max Scherzer will not be team's opening day starter

Nationals manager Dusty Baker said that Max Scherzer is not on track to be the team's opening day starter, and will most likely open the season as the third pitcher in the rotation. 

Scherzer has been the team's starter on opening day for the past two seasons, but a stress fracture in the knuckle of his right ring finger caused him to miss the start of spring training, and the World Baseball Classic. 

Scherzer did, however, make his first MLB spring training start of 2017 on Wednesday. The 2016 NL Cy Young award winner allowed two earned runs on five hits over 4.2 innings. He added four strikeouts and one walk, and reportedly looked just like you would expect from Max Scherzer. 

"To be out there competing, throwing all my pitches, throwing them for strikes, that's a great first outing," Scherzer told Eddie Matz of ESPN after the game. "Finger's good. Finger feels like a finger. I'm getting through that injury. It's behind me now."

With Scherzer set to open the season as the third starter in the rotation, that likely means that Stephen Strasburg will start on opening day against the Miami Marlins, and Tanner Roark will slot in behind him. 

While it's nice to have your ace pitcher starting on opening day, it's not a huge deal to have Scherzer start the season third in the rotation, especially because the Nationals starting rotation is the strength of the team

RELATED: Nationals' Tanner Roark pitches four scoreless innings to help Team USA beat Japan in WBC