One can’t help but wonder just how late Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard were out last night.
Down 9-0 after five innings, the Braves rallied to beat the Nationals 11-10 in 11 innings Friday and cut Washington’s NL East lead down to 2 1/2 games.
It was the first time since 1987 that the Braves had come from 9-0 down to win. Nationals manager Davey Johnson said afterwards that it was, “Arguably the worst game I’ve ever managed.”
This one was all Stephen Strasburg early, but the Braves got to the young All-Star for four runs in the sixth and kept piling on from there. Storen, just back from elbow surgery, gave up his first two runs of the season in the eighth, with Sean Burnett allowing two more in the frame. Clippard then blew his third save when he gave up two runs in the ninth, putting the Nationals in a 10-9 hole.
Still, the biggest surprise may have come in the bottom of the ninth, with David Espinosa homered off Craig Kimbrel. It was just the fifth homer allowed by Kimbrel in 135 2/3 career innings, and it resulted in his second blown save of the year. He entered with a 1.22 ERA.
The Braves went on to win in 11 after Paul Janish singled in Dan Uggla. Chad Durbin pitched a perfect inning for his first save since 2009.
Hunter Pence was thought to be on his way to retirement after a lackluster 2018 season with the Giants. As he entered his mid-30’s, Pence spent a considerable amount of time on the injured list, playing in 389 out of 648 possible regular season games with the Giants from 2015-18.
Pence, however, kept his career going, inking a minor league deal with the Rangers in February. He performed very well in spring training, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Pence hasn’t stopped hitting.
Entering Monday night’s game against the Mariners, Pence was batting .299/.358/.619 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 109 plate appearances, mostly as a DH. Statcast agrees that Pence has been mashing the ball. He has an average exit velocity of 93.3 MPH this season, which would obliterate his marks in each of the previous four seasons since Statcast became a thing. His career average exit velocity is 89.8 MPH. He has “barreled” the ball 10.4 percent of the time, well above his 6.2 percent average.
What Pence did to a baseball in the seventh inning of Monday’s game, then, shouldn’t come as a surprise.
That’s No. 9 on the year for Pence. Statcast measured it at 449 feet and 108.3 MPH off the bat. Not only is Pence not retired, he may be a lucrative trade chip for the Rangers leading up to the trade deadline at the end of July.