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Focused Storen bounces back in Game 3 win

Nats' closer puts tough start to NLDS behind him

SAN FRANCISCO -- It wasn't a save situation, at least not by the letter of the rule book. When Nationals closer Drew Storen took the mound to start the bottom of the ninth inning against the Giants at AT&T Park in Game 3 of the National League Division Series on Monday, he was protecting a 4-0 lead.

This moment had a little more gravitas than usual, though. Not just because the Nats needed to close out this game to avoid being swept, but because of how they found themselves in that dire situation in the first place.

Less than 48 hours earlier, at Nationals Park, Washington right-hander Jordan Zimmermann was one out away from shutting out San Francisco and evening the best-of-five series at one game apiece. But when Zimmermann walked Giants second baseman Joe Panik, Nats manager Matt Williams went to Storen, his closer. Buster Posey singled and Pablo Sandoval doubled to tie the score at 1. The Giants ended up winning, 2-1, in 18 innings.

And while it would certainly be an overstatement to say that Storen's confidence needed to be rescued after the first two batters he faced on Monday, the Nationals were obviously breathing easier after he settled down and got the last three outs in what turned out to be a 4-1 win.

This time it was Sandoval blooping a single to center and Hunter Pence following with a double that brought the sellout home crowd to life. But Storen struck out Brandon Belt, swapped a run for an out on Brandon Crawford's sacrifice fly and got Travis Ishikawa to ground out.

Closers need to have short memories, but Storen was eager to get back on the mound after what happened Saturday night.

"That's all you can control, what's in front of you," Storen said. "You've got to be in the moment, especially in the playoffs. If you're out there worrying about the past, worrying about the last game, then it's a lost cause.

"It's good just to be out there again, in general. And to lock that down is huge. It's all about building off it. Building off it as a team and building off it personally. It was good to be back out there. You can't change anything that's happened. You have to just say, 'All right, we've got to make the most of this. I want to be out there finishing this out.' I knew if I locked it in and made quality pitches, everything would take care of itself."

Having runners on second and third with nobody out on Monday, of course, wasn't the way Storen had envisioned it unfolding.

"You've just got to lock it in there," Storen said. "The first hit drops in. It was a good pitch. It just happens. But that's what you have to do. You lock it in and make quality pitches throughout. It's about getting the 'W.' Obviously they're good hitters. So it doesn't have to be pretty, you just have to get that win. I dug myself a nice little hole there to start, but you've just got to get outs. Don't leave anything over the plate for them to take advantage of.

"It's just a matter of really focusing in. You can't give in to these guys. You give them something good to hit there and things can get away from you pretty quick. You adjust your sights, lock in and concentrate on getting outs."

Williams had Rafael Soriano and Matt Thornton warming up in the bullpen behind Storen, who replaced Soriano as the Nationals' closer in September.

"I'm not going to speculate about at what point we would bring them in, but we needed them up and ready and hot," Williams said. "Got guys on second and third and nobody out, it's important for us to shut that game down. We have to win that game. So that's why they were up.

"It was important for [Storen]. It was important for him and important for us to win the game."

Which is why even though it didn't show up as a save in the box score, it sure felt like one.

Paul Hagen is a reporter for
Read More: Washington Nationals, Drew Storen