Sep 11, 2013, 10:49 AM EDT
NEW YORK — The two most important moments from Tuesday night’s win weren’t home runs by Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche. They weren’t scoreless innings of relief from Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano. And they weren’t LaRoche and Scott Hairston crossing the plate with insurance runs in the top of the ninth.
No, the two most important moments came in the bottom of the sixth and the bottom of the seventh when Wilson Ramos threw out Matt den Dekker and Eric Young Jr. trying to steal second base.
Just ask the Nationals’ manager.
“I thought those were key plays in the ballgame,” Davey Johnson said. “Those were huge outs.”
Huge, not only because each came with the Nationals clinging to a 1-run lead in a game they absolutely had to win to keep their scant playoff hopes alive, but because each came with a relief pitcher on the mound who has struggled to stop the running game in the past.
It’s been a team-wide problem since last season, but Craig Stammen and Drew Storen have been among the Nationals’ worst culprits.
Stammen had allowed 37-of-41 baserunners to successfully steal off him in his career until this year’s All-Star break. Since then, 3-of-7 runners have been caught, including den Dekker during the sixth inning Tuesday.
“Just paying more attention to it,” the right-hander said. “And I’m getting a little better at it, too, knowing the situations when they’re going to run, when you can get away with being a little slower and making a better pitch.”
Storen, meanwhile, had allowed a staggering 15-of-16 baserunners to steal off him in his career (including 13 straight) prior to Tuesday night, when Young was thrown out in the seventh inning.
“I’m just more excited I got the out,” Storen said. “It’s part of the adjustment. It’s more of an overall remodeling, and that just happens to be part of it.”
Both pitchers were quick to give credit to Ramos, whose arm certainly played a major role in both caught-stealing attempts, but the catcher gave credit back to a Nationals pitching staff that has made a point to rectify this ongoing problem.
“Last year, a lot of guys stole,” Ramos said. “So this year, we worked in spring training on the pitchers trying to be more quick to the plate, change their time. That’s good. All of us, we can help the pitchers to try to get those guys out. It’s very important for them.”
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