(Long walk for Drew. Jim Riggleman pulled Drew Storen with two outs in the 9th on Tuesday. Screengrab via MLB.com/MASN.)
What better way to signal to your rookie closer that you trust him, especially after an absolutely crushing 4-run meltdown and blown save just a few days prior, than to pull him with two outs in the 9th inning with an 8-4 lead?
Granted, it wasn't a save situation (at least no yet). And granted, Storen looked shaky at times in the 9th, recording two outs but also giving up a home run and a walk. And granted, this was a huge win hanging in the balance for the Nationals, sort of -- because if they managed to hold on, a win would prevent a third consecutive 100-loss season. They did: that 100-loss mark will have to wait until next year.
But leaving Drew Storen out there to figure shit out in an otherwise meaningless game at the end of a lost season seems more important to the future of the Washington Nationals than a W in an otherwise meaningless game, right?
But Jim Riggleman thought otherwise. He took the ball from Storen, handed it to Sean Burnett, and with one pitch, Burnett induced a pop up to seal win #63 of 2010. Bang, zoom. Here's Riggleman's explanation, via Nationals Journal:
"We don't have any specific role for anybody. We're just trying to get outs. And I felt like the best way to get that next out was to bring Burnett in. Did i think Drew would get the next out? Yeah. But I was a little more confident that Burnie coming in fresh there to face a guy off the bench, turn him around right-handed, was a little more to our liking."
(Jim Riggleman, via Nationals Journal, 9/22/2010)
That's some vote of confidence for your future closer, Jim!