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Storen comes up short as Nats fall to Phils

Storen comes up short as Nats fall to Phils

PHILADELPHIA -- After Nationals right-hander Drew Storen blew his second save of the season in a 7-6 loss to the Phillies on Sunday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park, manager Jim Riggleman declined to name Storen the closer for this year or next year.

Storen has been up and down since entering the big leagues in mid-May. Riggleman believes Storen is still trying to make the transition from the Minors to the Majors.

Asked if Storen needed a mentor to help him get to the next level, Riggleman said, "I don't think we have anointed anyone as the closer. ... None of the guys are strictly pitching in the seventh, eighth or ninth inning. We're going to use them as needed. We are hoping someday Drew is that guy to pitch in the ninth inning, but we are not saying that it's now or next year."

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Storen entered the game in the bottom of the ninth inning with Washington holding a three-run lead. However, he didn't record an out. After Placido Polanco singled and Chase Utley doubled, Ryan Howard singled to center field to drive in two runs, and pull the Phils within one.

Jayson Werth was the next hitter and battled Storen for seven pitches before taking a 3-2 fastball and hitting the ball over the wall for the game-winner. Entering the game, Werth was hitting .239 with runners on base and .172 with runners in scoring position.

"I chased that 3-1 pitch and had to battle after that, but I got a pitch to hit and hit it out of the yard," Werth said. "I knew I hit it good. It gets iffy out there with how the corner shoots back. If you probably could have asked me where it was going when I hit, it was probably right there. Just over the fence."

Storen said he doesn't have any regrets about what he threw in that ninth inning. He threw his best stuff, but Philadelphia was able to get the best of him.

"I made good pitches, and they are good hitters," Storen said. "That's going to happen. My goal is to go out there and attack them, and have them put it in play. They put some good swings on it. It's just one of those days where you get beat. That's what it came down to. Obviously, they have great lineup. There is not a whole lot I would change, because I felt good with the pitches I was throwing.

"Werth put a good swing on it. I threw a 3-2 slider that he fouled off. It was a good pitch. I was going to try to attack him with my fastball. It caught a little too much of the plate, especially his barrel. In that situation, you have to make the right pitch. Obviously, I missed the pitch."

At first, it looked like the Nationals were going to be called the spoilers -- at least for a day. Home runs by Michael Morse and Danny Espinosa helped Washington take the lead.

The Nationals were down 3-1 when they rallied against right-hander Joe Blanton in the top of the sixth inning.

With runners on first and second with two outs, Morse took a 3-2 pitch and hit the ball over the right-field wall to give Washington a 4-3 lead.

In the next inning, with Danys Baez on the mound, Espinosa took a 1-0 pitch and hit a solo shot to increase the lead to two runs.

Right-hander Yunesky Maya started, but has yet to show that he can be a quality pitcher in the big leagues. He lasted 4 2/3 innings and allowed three runs on six hits. He threw 90 pitches in the contest.

Maya had a 1-0 lead in the third inning, thanks to Willie Harris' homer. But the Phillies were able to take the lead by the fourth inning. Brian Schneider gave Philadelphia the lead with a two-run double.

"He pitches on the edges," Riggleman said of Maya. "Home-plate umpire Tim Tschida made the right calls. They were not strikes. They were borderline as they can be, but that's the way he pitches. He just couldn't get the calls. That's why the pitch count goes so high."

In the next inning, Maya allowed an RBI single to Werth before leaving the game and letting the bullpen take over. Nationals relievers were able to stop the Phillies for 3 1/3 innings until Storen blew it in the ninth.

Shortstop Ian Desmond defended Storen's effort Sunday and said he is going to have bad days once in a while.

"He has been great for us all year," Desmond said. "This is his first year in the big leagues. He hardly played in the Minor Leagues. He is doing a great job. Everybody blows saves. The Phillies have an outstanding lineup. They were locked in. I'm sure they saw that the Braves won, and they needed to win. That's the way it goes sometimes."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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