Storen bounces back in a big way (Rendon on Sporting News NL All-Star team)

Until last night, the Royals had been a perfect 8-0 in this year's postseason. They'd thrived largely because of their speed and dominant back end of their bullpen. So how do you beat them? Keep them off the bases, and don't let Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland play any type of factor in the ballgame. The Giants kept on rolling last night, thanks to their balanced offense and ace Madison Bumgarner, who continues to establish himself as one of the best postseason pitchers in the majors. Bumgarner might've been opposing "Big Game" James Shields last night, but the Giants left-hander is the one stepping up in crucial moments. He's now lost just one of his five starts this postseason, and the Nationals were the team that stuck Bumgarner with that defeat, back in Game 3 of the National League Division Series. Bumgarner's career postseason ERA is now 2.54 in 12 starts, after he allowed just one run on three hits last night in San Francisco's 7-1 win in Game 1 of the World Series. Jake Peavy and Yordano Ventura will take the mound tonight in Game 2. One thing I love about sports is that athletes who have hit rough patches either in a particular game or over the course of a season often have a chance at redemption. Failure is a big part of sports, and I truly enjoy watching athletes respond to personal disappointment by battling their way back. Drew Storen was a perfect example of that this season, and that's why he makes my list of five Nats players who really impressed in 2014. storen-lobaton-high-five-red-sidebar.jpgWe're all aware of the tough road Storen had to deal with the last couple of years. In Game 5 of the 2012 National League Division Series, he blew a save, allowing the Cardinals to move on to the National League Championship Series. That offseason, the Nationals signed Rafael Soriano to a two-year deal, bumping Storen out of the closer's role. In 2013, Storen struggled so badly that he was sent down to Triple-A Syracuse midway through the season, needing to overhaul his mechanics and get a fresh mindset. But here's where the positive stuff kicks in. Storen returned to the big leagues three weeks after his demotion in 2013, and he looked like a new pitcher. He posted a 1.40 ERA in his 21 games after rejoining the Nats, and was scored upon in just two of those appearances. This season, Storen reached a new level of personal success. He appeared in 65 games out of the bullpen, and punched up a ridiculous 1.12 ERA (second-best among all qualified major league relievers) and 0.976 WHIP. When Soriano struggled and was removed from the closer role, Storen stepped in and recorded the save in all 10 chances he had in September. He went his final 23 appearances of the regular season without allowing an earned run. Storen's slider was devastating, and he added a cutter and a changeup, a second off-speed pitch that became a huge weapon for him. He would've liked for his NLDS appearances this year to have gone a bit smoother - Storen blew a save in Game 2 and then allowed a run on two hits before closing out the Nats' win in Game 3 - but his 2014 campaign was still something he should be plenty proud of. Storen has been through a lot in the last three years, from elbow surgery to Game 5 in 2012 to losing his closer job to the demotion. This season, he proved he still can be one of the most effective relievers in the majors, and his stellar performance likely has him itching for the 2015 season to roll around. Update: Yesterday, the Sporting News announced that Matt Williams was voted as its NL Manager of the Year. Today, the Sporting News announced that Anthony Rendon was voted as the third baseman on its NL All-Star team. Also receiving votes among NL third basemen were Josh Harrison, Casey McGehee, Pablo Sandoval and Todd Frazier. The voting was done by NL general managers and assistant GMs.

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