The firepower in their bullpen makes it easy for the Washington Nationals to envision life without Drew Storen, until the ninth inning arrives and the score is tied. Storen will visit Dr. James Andrews today for a second opinion on his elbow, the first step in a process that may leave him sidelined for half the season. The Nationals will continue to survey their options without the man to whom their ninth innings belong.
Long after Edwin Jackson had left his first start for the Nationals on Monday, the New York Mets used a calamitous ninth inning to rally to a 4-3 win at Citi Field and remain unbeaten. Henry Rodriguez walked the first batter of the inning, melted down trying to field a bunt and then allowed Daniel Murphy a game-winning hit, all with no outs. Rodriguez had dominated the lone batter he faced in the eighth inning, but then he found what the Nationals and Storen know: The ninth inning is different.
Rodriguez dominated spring training, harnessing his powerful fastball and physics-defying curveball. In his season debut Saturday, he struck out the final three batters he faced in a three-run game. The question remained: How would Rodriguez handle the tightest of situations?
The first evidence arrived Monday night. Rodriguez led off the ninth inning by walking pinch hitter Mike Baxter on five pitches. Mets manager Terry Collins called on Ruben Tejada to bunt, and on a 2-2 pitch he pushed one back to Rodriguez. He fielded the ball and looked to second, where he might have had a play. He then turned to first, double-clutched and fired low.
The hesitation allowed Tejada to reach first base at roughly the same time as Rodriguez's low throw to the inside of the base. Tejada ran into second baseman Danny Espinosa, who was covering first base, and the ball squirted away.
Baxter rounded second and reached third by the time Espinosa, gloveless, had retrieved the ball in foul ground. When Baxter slipped between third and home, Espinosa fired to third, just late as Baxter scrambled back to the bag.
Daniel Murphy then flared a soft line drive into shallow right field for a walk-off single.
2/3 scoreless relief innings,