General manager Mike Rizzo left no doubt that Rafael Soriano will be the Nationals’ new closer after signing a two-year, $28 million deal, saying: “Suffice it to say, Raffy is here to pitch the ninth inning.”
That means last year’s primary closer, Tyler Clippard, moves back into a setup role after saving 32 games, and Drew Storen remains in a setup role after saving 43 games in 2011.
Storen was used as a closer in Game 5 of the NLDS and blew a two-run lead against the Cardinals, but Rizzo was quickly to say that “by no means the signing of Rafael Soriano was based on one inning and one game at the end of the season.”
Whatever the case a late-inning trio of Soriano, Storen, and Clippard is one of the best in baseball–all with closing experience–and last season combined to throw 171 innings with a 2.89 ERA.
The Astros rallied late to keep their winning streak alive, extending it to 11 games with a 7-4 victory over the Royals on Sunday afternoon. The club is now 48-25, leading the Mariners by a full game in the AL West.
The Royals took a 4-2 lead after three innings, but Brian McCann knocked in a run with a single in the top of the fourth to cut the deficit to one run. Carlos Correa hit a game-tying solo home run in the eighth. The Astros kept their foot on the gas, scoring two more runs on RBI singles from Evan Gattis and Marwin Gonzalez in the top of the eighth and another in the top of the ninth on Correa’s sacrifice fly.
Starter Lance McCullers allowed four runs (two earned) on six hits and two walks with nine strikeouts over six innings. Tony Sipp worked a scoreless seventh. Ken Giles did the same in the eighth. Hector Rondon finished off the win in the ninth, working around a one-out walk with a game-ending double play.
After winning all 10 games on their road trip against the Rangers, Athletics, and Royals, the Astros will head home for a nine-game homestand against the Rays, Royals, and Blue Jays. Each club is below .500.