MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Storen-Papelbon tandem dominates first test

Nationals' new closer impressed by setup man's stuff in win over Marlins

Storen-Papelbon tandem dominates first test

MIAMI -- In Thursday's 1-0 victory over the Marlins, the Nationals saw a glimpse of what could be a powerful 1-2 combination at the back end of their bullpen.

Drew Storen was dominant in the eighth inning, while Jonathan Papelbon made quick work of the Marlins and saved his first game as a member of the Nats.

Storen pitched as if he had something to prove, having being removed from the closer role when Papelbon was acquired on Tuesday. It took Storen only 10 pitches to get the job done. He struck out J.T. Realmuto and Cole Gillespie before getting Dee Gordon to ground out.

Storen fans Realmuto

After the game, Papelbon was so impressed by Storen's performance that he asked the setup man how he grips his slider.

"I asked [him], 'Can you show me your slider grip tomorrow?'" Papelbon said. "He was really, really good."

When he entered the game in the ninth, Papelbon acknowledged that he was "pretty nervous" to be making his Nationals debut. But he also made quick work of the Marlins.

Papelbon needed nine pitches to retire the side in order. Ichiro Suzuki grounded out to Papelbon before Christian Yelich lined out to second baseman Anthony Rendon. Pinch-hitter Michael Morse, traded to the Dodgers on Thursday evening, struck out to end the game.

Papelbon earns first Nats save

"I really can't explain it," Papelbon said. "You come here to a team and expect to win. You expect to do the job. … I'm glad it's out of the way. You come to a new team, you want to show them what you have, why you're here and everything that goes along with it. It's also fun at the same time. I think that's what makes me who I am and what makes me succeed."

First baseman Ryan Zimmerman believes that having Storen and Papelbon pitch at the end of games gives the Nats a clear advantage.

"That's kind of the whole point as to why we got Pap -- to do what he is doing and do whatever it takes to give us the best chance to win," Zimmerman said. "The last two times [Storen] came out in the eighth to do what he did, it obviously makes us a better team."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.