Last night, the Nationals were up by five runs in the top of the ninth, when closer Drew Storen allowed a solo home run to cut the deficit to four. He then walked the next batter. Jim Riggleman decided to pull the rookie in favor of Sean Burnett, who made one pitch and recorded the final out of the game.
At that point, the tying run wasn't in the batter's box, or even on deck, or even applying pine tar to his bat yet. He was still in the dugout trying to decide which flavor of sunflower seeds to go with. So why did Jim Riggleman feel like it was necessary pull Storen in favor of Burnett when the game was already in hand?
According to Ben Goessling of MASN Sports, it has to do with confidence; specifically the confidence Riggleman has in Burnett, and the confidence he has lost in Storen.
"We don't have any specific role for anybody. We're just trying to get outs. I felt like the best way to get that next out was to bring Burnett in. Did I think Drew would get that next out? Yeah. But I was a little more confident that Burnie coming in fresh there to face a guy off the bench, that turning him around right-handed was a little more to our liking."
Drew Storen has had by all accounts a successful rookie year. He happens to be in a little bit of a rough stretch as of now, but he has still been a very effective pitcher for the Nationals this year. As Riggleman admitted, he probably would have gotten that final out before he allowed another four runs; but Riggleman decided to pull him anyway, which to me seems counterproductive.
The reason I say that is because I think pulling Storen defeats the entire purpose of bringing him into a five-run game in the first place. As Goessling points out the best reason to put your closer in when you have a five run lead, when he would be unable to record a save, is to build his confidence. Pulling him back out of the game destroys what little confidence he may have left.
If he wanted to help him get back out of his groove, than he shouldn't have shown him that he doesn't have faith that he could get one more out before allowing four more runs.