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Storen stunned after Nats collapse

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Storen stunned after Nats collapse

The protective plastic over the lockers, the cart of champagne bottles, all of it was in place.

All Drew Storen had to do was get one strike.

Twice the Nationals had the Cardinals where they wanted them: two strikes and two outs, a two-run lead.

Full count, two outs on Yadier Molina. He walks. Full count, two outs on David Freese. He walks.

Then, with one 94 mile per hour sinker, the Nationals 2012 season began to unravel before the eyes of the largest crowd in stadium history. Daniel Descalso pelted a ground ball off the glove of Ian Desmond, ricocheting into the outfield and scoring two runs to tie the game at seven.

The next batter, rookie Pete Kozma, then made contact with another hard sinker, this time a line drive single into right field. Two runners scored as the Cardinals took their first lead after trailing for three and a half hours and 26 outs.

What had all night seemed so certain, all of a sudden slipped away.

“We had it right there. Most disappointing honestly, is just to let these guys down,” Storen said after collecting himself in the Nationals’ clubhouse.

“With the amount of adversity we dealt with this year, for it to come down to that is pretty tough.”

The 25-year-old Storen was drafted and groomed by the Nationals for this very situation. He was the best closer in college when they took him in 2009 and saved 43 games in 2011. But Friday night was not meant to be, what could have been the most gratifying moment of his career is now something that will carry with him until next season and perhaps beyond.

“It’s part of the job,” he said. “It’s the best job when you’re good at it and it’s the worst job when you fail.”

“There’s a bad taste in my mouth that’s gonna stay there for a couple of months and it’s probably never going to leave.”

Storen sat at his locker for minutes at a time after the Game 5 loss. First in his game worn under shirt, second washed and fully dressed.

Teammates and coaches took turns walking up to console him, but what could be said? Nothing can take away the time he will spend going over those at-bats, those moments, what could have been.

For Storen’s teammates, they chose to focus on the collective feeling of loss. They were devastated just as he was and, after all, no game is really decided on one pitch.

“I don’t know, I don’t know what to tell the guy,” Kurt Suzuki said. “We’re both feeling the same thing.”

“I really don’t know what we would have done differently, to tell you the truth.”

Storen’s roommate and good friend Tyler Clippard pitched the eighth inning and also let Descalso cut the deficit with a solo home run. Clippard stood up for Storen and took ownership himself.

“Obviously Drew feels bad, I feel bad, we’re all pretty devastated right now,” he said. “I don't think it has any difference who did what in the game, we’re all in the same boat.”

Adam LaRoche, perhaps the team’s 2012 most valuable player, still reveres Storen and his future as a closer.

"He's one of the best in the game. We all know it. And I hope he knows that," he said.

"I think the last three outs are the hardest in baseball, and I don't know why it's so much harder than the other eight innings. But something about it. Crazy stuff happens in that ninth inning.”

Ryan Zimmerman affirmed his confidence in Storen as if he were speaking for the franchise as he’s often asked to do.

“Drew will be fine. Drew went through a lot this year,” he said, referring to Storen’s time on the disabled list after elbow surgery.

“I think Drew is going to be a great closer for a long time. He's going to be our guy."


General manager Mike Rizzo ultimately makes those decisions, but says he's seen enough success from Storen to remain in his corner.

“He’s a terrific young player with a bright future as a closer. He’s already proven he can handle the load,” he said.

On what he hopes Storen can take away from this experience, Rizzo was honest and said probably the only thing the young closer really can do to move on.

“Remember how this feels so it doesn’t happen again.”

Storen remembering what happened is probably the last thing he has to worry about.

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Nationals' Dusty Baker thinks Washington teams are positioned to win a championship this year

Nationals' Dusty Baker thinks Washington teams are positioned to win a championship this year

Nationals manager Dusty Baker is back for a second year and feeling optimistic for his Washington team. Spring training has begun in Florida and it has Baker thinking about how the Nats can create some excitement for local sports fans.

In an interview with American University’s WAMU radio station, Baker said D.C. wants to be a "city of champions.” Furthermore, he thinks it can be pulled off before the year ends.

"I came here to win a championship and you know I would love nothing more than to bring one to Washington. Washington, I didn’t know it before I got there, but it’s had a tough time getting out of the first round in a number of sports."

He projected the Nationals to bring home the next championship for the District, but he knows they have competition of late. 

"Washington Wizards are looking pretty good. I’m pulling for them first because their season ends before ours, so I’ve been really following them. The Capitals have a good thing going. I started watching the Redskins more this year.

"You know once it gets contagious in a city and you get a positive attitude throughout the city, then it transfers to the sports teams. So we want to be known as a city of champions, before the end of the year hopefully."

Baker has a reputation for bringing out the best in his teams, especially managing star players. He managed the San Francisco Giants for ten seasons before moving on to the Chicago Cubs, a team he managed for four seasons.

He's never won a World Series, but has taken a team to Game 7. He also finished third for the 2016 National League Manager of the Year award.

So, what are Baker’s steps for the Nationals to get that ultimate prize? A simple formula, really.

"I think that we’ve got to stay healthy, number one. We’re trying to fill the holes that we need to fill, and we’ve got to play," he said. "You know last year we were very close, we were one hit away or one play away or one pitch away from going to the next round against the Cubs."

While he says he came to win Washington a championship, he's also enjoying his time in the city. 

"I love D.C. Before that, San Francisco was my favorite town; that’s my home. But I tell you, D.C. is definitely in the running," he said. "I thought San Francisco had the best seafood, but man, you guys have the best seafood I think in the world."

Thanks, Dusty!

The Nationals play their first spring training game against the New York mets on Saturday.

RELATED: NATIONALS REGULAR SEASON SCHEDULE

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Former Nationals outfielder admits to drinking vodka before MLB games

Former Nationals outfielder admits to drinking vodka before MLB games

When it comes to sports, we sometimes forget that the athletes we look up to are just normal people. Normal people who have a lot to prove to millions of people on a weekly basis. Former Nationals outfielder Rick Ankiel has discussed one of his human moments in an interview with 590 The Fan in St. Louis.

Ankiel admitted to drinking vodka during his plight as a pitcher. He referenced his first two starts of the 2001 season, in particular against the Arizona Diamondbacks where he allowed his anxiety to give in to alcohol to soothe him. In the previous postseason, he became the first pitcher since 1980 to throw five wild pitches in a single inning. 

It may have worked for a couple of games but Ankiel eventually realized it was only making matters worse.

Ankiel began playing in Majors at the age of 19, and has had a fluctuating career through six teams. All the while, he has kept a “never give up” mentality.

Why the sudden need to vent? Ankiel is getting up close and personal with his upcoming book, “The Phenomenon: Pressure, the Yips, and the Pitch that Changed my Life” which is co-written by sports writer Tim Brown. The book will be released on April 18.  

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