WASHINGTON (AP) — Drew Storen sat in the bullpen and watched the clock. When the phone rang telling him to start warming up, he knew he was staying put with the Washington Nationals. When 4 o’clock came and went, he was left with no doubt whatsoever.
When Storen jogged in from the bullpen to pitch the ninth inning, he was greeted with rousing cheers from fans ecstatic that their closer was still on the team, including one who held up a sign that said: “NOT DREW.” The script then had a bit of a wrinkle — Storen gave up a tying home run with two outs in the top of the ninth, but he got credit for the win when the Nationals scored in the bottom of the inning in a 3-2 win Sunday over the New York Mets.
“It’s probably the weirdest day of my career,” said Storen, a crowd favorite since he was chosen with the 10th overall pick in the 2009 draft. “As much as I have to shut that stuff out, it’s still on your mind. But once I saw the clock hit 4 I was pretty excited and really happy.”
Amid the annual anxiety of trade deadline day, the Nationals quieted the Mets’ bats again to take two games in the three-game series. As it turned out, all those eyeing the large clock attached to the scoreboard in right-center field were waiting for naught — neither team made a deal, leaving them instead to focus on persevering through an afternoon in which the first-pitch temperature was 96 degrees.
Storen was the subject of trade speculation throughout the weekend, in theory the piece that general manager Mike Rizzo might have to swap to acquire a much-needed center fielder who can bat leadoff. Rizzo said he spoke to three or four teams as the deadline neared and felt “a little bit of frustration” that nothing came of it. Storen, he said, is someone he didn’t want to let go.
“I’ve said from Day One he’s a cornerstone of the organization,” Rizzo said, “and he’s asked (about) by every team we talk to — he’s the first name brought up — but it would have to be a special deal to make that work because he’s a special performer in a premium position.”
Storen (6-2) had a 2-1 lead when he entered the game, but he threw a sinker that didn’t sink to Scott Hairston, whose drive barely cleared the left-field fence for his second homer of the game.
In the bottom of the ninth, Jesus Flores opened with a single to right off Bobby Parnell (3-3), New York’s fifth pitcher. Parnell then hit Rick Ankiel with a pitch to put runners on first and second with none out. Brian Bixler attempted to sacrifice, but first baseman Daniel Murphy pounced on the bunt and threw to third to force out Flores.
Ankiel and Bixler advanced on a wild pitch, forcing the Mets to bring the infield in for Ian Desmond, whose chopper up the middle was deflected by Parnell. Second baseman Willie Harris’ throw was too late to get Ankiel, ending the game and giving the Nationals some momentum after a recent six-game losing streak that slugger Jayson Werth had attributed in part to anxiety over the trade deadline.
“It can be a tough time,” Werth said. “You don’t know where you’re going to be tonight or tomorrow. It makes it tough to play the game at times, but it’s over with. We can focus on the rest of the season.”
Hairston, who also hit his third pinch-hit homer of the season, accounted for all the runs for the Mets, who were shut out 3-0 on Saturday and finished 6-4 on their road trip.
“It’s frustrating to lose back-to-back games,” Hairston said. “We’re playing good as a whole. We didn’t catch our breaks toward the end there. We’ve just got to keep our heads up. There’s a lot of time left.”
The game was a scoreless tie until the sixth, when Desmond, Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse doubled in a two-run sixth off New York starter Jonathon Niese. Zimmerman is batting .436 during a nine-game hitting streak.
Washington starter Jordan Zimmermann righted himself after giving up six earned runs in each of his previous two starts. He pitched six scoreless innings, allowed seven hits, walked only one and struck out six — including the last two batters he faced to work out of a second-and-third, one-out jam.
The Mets had their chances early. They loaded the bases with a walk to the pitcher and a pair of singles in the third, but David Wright hit into a 9-3-4 double play when Murphy strayed too far off first on a flyout to right field.
New York then had Murphy and Wright on base with one out in the sixth. Zimmermann balked, allowing both to advance, but he composed himself to strike out Angel Pagan and Jason Bay.
“Those are chances we usually have capitalized on, not only this trip but throughout the year,” New York manager Terry Collins said. “Today we had miscommunication on the fly ball to right and it cost us. And then the strikeout to Angel. We’ve got to make those situations count, for sure.”
Notes: Wright has hits in all 10 games since returning from the disabled list. However, his streak of seven straight multihit games came to an end. ... The Nationals optioned RHP Yunesky Maya to Triple-A Syracuse and recalled LHP Atahualpa Severino from Syracuse. Severino’s first appearance with the Nationals will mark his major league debut. ... Washington LF Jonny Gomes singled twice, his first two hits after an 0-for-6 start since being acquired in a trade from Cincinnati last week.