The Washington Nationals' storybook 2012 season ended in heartbreaking fashion when closer Drew Storen blew a two-run, ninth-inning lead in a Game 5 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.
But it was not simply a lack of execution that proved to be Storen's undoing; he was battling back spasms that CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman described as "excruciating" and "unbearable," based on talks with team sources.
Storen, whose four-run meltdown came on his third straight day of pitching in the series, has yet to acknowledge the injury, but his teammates are aware of it and he spent much of those three days being treated in the trainers room, according to the report.
"He was having real bad back spasms. That was the third day (pitching) in a row," teammate Jayson Werth said. "He was banged up, man. No one knew. For him to just have the balls to go out there, that says a lot about him."
Werth and others didn't talk about it because they seek an excuse for Storen. They just want to set the record straight, and the true record should reflect that Storen was valiant just to pitch three straight games in pain. If anything, his teammates' admiration for him grew.
"I'm not blaming his injury," Werth said. "He just wasn't healthy."
Storen, 25, has completed 54 of his 62 career save opportunities and owns a 2.96 ERA in three seasons. He continued to downplay the injury in comments to CBSSports.com.
"I was all right. I was good. I was out there," the normally expansive Storen responded when asked about his ailment.
Following up with comments from others triggered only a last sentence or two, and that was it.
"It's all right, I grinded," Storen said. "I wanted to be out there. I was going to do it no matter what."