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WSH@COL: Storen strikes out Tulo looking, gets save

DENVER -- The Nationals cleared the cache on Saturday night's 22-run slugfest and salvaged a series split by holding onto a squeaker for a 3-2 victory, punctuated by closer Drew Storen's fist-pumping, game-ending strikeout of one of the game's best hitters, in the finale of their four-game set in Colorado. The loss marked the Rockies' 16th consecutive Sunday afternoon defeat.

With a one-run lead and Troy Tulowitzki at the plate, Storen challenged the Rockies cleanup hitter with his best stuff, freezing him on a slider for a called strike to open the at-bat, feeding him a quartet of four-seam fastballs to get to a 1-2 count, narrowly avoiding disaster as a deep foul ball hooked right of the right-field foul pole, then slipped a sinker on the outside of the plate for a called third strike and an exhilarating victory for the Nationals.

"He's an unbelievable hitter, so I wanted to make sure if he was going to ambush me in the last [at-bat] that I'd give him a slider first pitch and then go to my fastball," Storen said. "It was just a battle. That was one of the most fun at bats I've had all year."

With 21 homers notched on his bat for the season, including two against the Nats earlier in the series, Tulowitzki had the potential to tie the game with a single swing. But Storen fooled him with an outside sinker that the slugging shortstop watched for strike three.

"I wanted to throw that pitch, and I got lucky and executed, because if I run that over the plate, it's a ball that he hits out," Storen said. "It's a high-risk, high-reward pitch. But it ended up paying off. Any time I can go head to head with two outs and a one-run lead against a hitter like that, that's what I live for."

Storen walked off the field with his 29th save, and the Nats left Colorado on a 6-3 tear over their last nine games.

Washington got on the board first, taking advantage when Jayson Werth worked a walk to open the second inning against Rox starter Aaron Cook. Jonny Gomes followed with a long ball to left, his first home run with the Nationals since coming to the club in a July 26 trade with the Reds, giving Washington a 2-0 lead.

"Aaron Cook's got a lot of movement both sides," Gomes said. "He's got a sinker down and in to a righty and a cutter down and out to a righty. You really have to pick a side of the plate and sit middle in. If it's on, [the sinkerball] is the toughest pitch to hit in the game. When it's left up, you have to capitalize on it."

As Cook explained it, the pitch Gomes deposited 419 feet from the plate was a poorly executed slider.

"I left one pitch up, and it cost us big," Cook said.

Washington southpaw John Lannan held the Rockies at bay for six scoreless innings, scattering six hits and four walks while facing traffic every frame. He walked pinch-hitter Jonathan Herrera to open the seventh before manager Davey Johnson went to his bullpen to protect the two-run lead. When the walk scored later, it's was Lannan's only run allowed.

"He was outstanding," Johnson said. "They scored a bunch of runs [15] against us yesterday. He shut them down completely."

Feeling like the altitude took some of the bite out of his breaking pitches, Lannan leaned heavily on his fastball.

"I really didn't have the sinker like I wanted to, but I got out of some jams," Lannan said. "I threw a lot more four-seams today. All the hits pretty much came on the sinker. It didn't sink as much as I wanted to. I wasn't really missing bats, or missing the sweet spots. They were getting good wood on it, but I was able to battle through with my four-seamer and my changeup."

Ryan Mattheus relieved Lannan in the seventh and gave up a single to his first batter, Eric Young Jr., then saw Dexter Fowler drop a sacrifice bunt to third, moving runners to second and third with one out. Johnson went to All-Star setup man Tyler Clippard to face Carlos Gonzalez.

Gonzalez hit a routine grounder to first, but Michael Morse dropped the ball as he fielded it and couldn't recover in time to make a play as Herrera scored from third, cutting the lead to one run. Clippard sent Tulowitzki down swinging out ahead of an 0-2 changeup, then lost a 3-1 fastball when Ty Wigginton turned on it and lined it to left to plate the tying run.

The Nats quickly bounced back, reclaiming a one-run margin thanks in part to Rockies left fielder Young's misread of a fly ball from Danny Espinosa to open the eighth. Young misjudged the ball, which ultimately eluded his outstretched glove and fell for a leadoff double. After reliever Matt Belisle induced Ryan Zimmerman to ground to short and intentionally walked Morse, Werth dropped a flare into shallow left, allowing Espinosa to score the go-ahead run.

"I wanted to be aggressive," Werth said of the at bat. "I came out hacking. I felt a little late on the fastball today. I fought off that two-strike heater up and made a decision that if I tried to speed up to hit the heater, I'd probably be susceptible to the slider. I stood fast, I felt that was my best chance. I got a slider and was able to put it out there."

Gomes had two hits on the day, and Zimmerman extended his hitting streak to 16 games with a two-out single to left in the third.

"I like the way we've started swinging on this road trip," Johnson said as the club continues its travels to Chicago and Philadelphia. "We've seen some pretty good pitching too. So going into Wrigley, bring it on."

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