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Craig Stammen puts it together, at least for one day

The Good Craig Stammen showed up Sunday at Sun Life Stadium. Stammen's consistency can be questioned. His occasional brilliance cannot. On Sunday, when he was the biggest victim of the Nationals' offensive futility, he flashed why he still might become a fixture in the Nationals' rotation.

Stammen took the loss despite allowing one earned run in six innings on six hits and three walks. At times, he dominated. In the first four innings, Stammen allowed three hits, all singles, and forced 17 swinging strikes. For perspective, Stephen Strasburg made the Marlins swing and miss 10 times in six innings Friday night.

The key for Stammen was, like most days, his slider, a pitch he learned in the spring and one he is "still learning to throw," he said. He has had problems controlling his slider and curveball, which forces to throw only fastballs, which enables hitter to cream them. Stammen will likely end his inconsistency once he begins throwing breaking balls for strikes with regularity.

"You just got to be able to throw something for a strike besides a fastball, no matter how much it's moving," Stammen said. "Today, I was able to do that. They had to respect more than one pitch."

The slider is especially important. "It comes out a lot like my fastball," Stammen said. To right-handed hitters, it looks like an inside fastball halfway to home plate. And then it breaks across to the outside corner, leaving them lunging. On Sunday, he had it working.

"That guy just throws everything at you," said Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla, who struck out swinging at three pitches in the first. "Good curveball, slider, cutter. Everything. He didn't leave anything over the middle of the plate. He hit his spots. Once he got ahead, he tried to get you to chase. He really kept us off balance today."

That doesn't sound like the scouting report of a pitcher with a 5.50 ERA. Stammen redeemed a pair of lousy outings. After allowing 11 earned runs over 8 2/3 innings in his past two starts, Stammen, after leaving the bases loaded in the fourth, yielded no runs for his first four innings Sunday.

In a flash, his shutout unraveled. Emilio Bonifacio led off the sixth with a double down the right field line and Gaby Sanchez followed with another double into the right-center gap. Craig Stammen retired the next three batters, Cristian Guzman throwing out Sanchez at home on a grounder to limit the Marlins to one run. He pitched well enough to win on most days, just not another the Nationals' offense went missing.

"Losing [stinks] no matter how you look at it," Stammen said. "Part of pitching is only being able to control certain parts of things. I can't really control the end result of what the offense does or anything like that. So I can take some positives out of that."

By Adam Kilgore  |  July 18, 2010; 5:49 PM ET
Categories:  Craig Stammen  | Tags: Craig Stammen, Nationals, Nats, Nats-Marlins, Strasburg  
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Next: More on the Nationals offense


He may not be able to control what the offense does, but he got as many hits as anyone else did.

Posted by: marathoner | July 18, 2010 7:02 PM | Report abuse

Now if we can only get the "good" Ryan Zimerman, the "good" Adam Dunn, the "good" Josh Willingham to show up again. I'm assuming--like many around here--that there is no longer a "good" Adam Kennedy. Cincy is going to be tough, tough, tough.

Posted by: SorenKierkegaard | July 18, 2010 8:16 PM | Report abuse

Just a silly thought, but it seems to me that for a lot of this season the parts are clicking, they just aren't clicking at the same time. When a starter throws a gem, the offense goes flat. When the offense is nailing the ball, the bullpen gives up leads. When the bullpen keeps it close, a fielding error costs us the game. All the parts are there, they just aren't coming together at the same time.

Which is still a vast improvement over the past two years, when pretty much everything was dismal pretty much all of the time.

Posted by: js_edit | July 18, 2010 9:11 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, it's an improvement, but enough with moral victories - this team needs more real victories.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | July 18, 2010 10:12 PM | Report abuse

Please take note they are on the road to 100 losses! This up coming week is the test, if they can get out of Cincy with 2 wins and 2 wins in Milwaukee they may salvage what they need to avoid another C note. However if they get thrashed in both Redsville and Brewtown the rest of the schedule thru August is brutal.

Its time to say bye-bye to Adam Kennedy and Willie Harris they add nothing to an already awful line-up. Between the two they have probably lost a combined 5 or 6 games, maybe more but who's counting

Its also time to come to grips folks that the team in the long run is better off trading Dunn and Willingham. They need help up the middle and more quality arms (not just a bunch of maybe if's)

Posted by: TippyCanoe | July 18, 2010 10:29 PM | Report abuse

You're right.Dunn is so limited.Anyone notice how Guzman and Morgan were motioning for him to slide into home the other night?And his response?Not my thing.I'm always envious when I see first basemen like Carlos Pena,Todd Helton,Adrian Gonzalez,etc,etc.In short,guys who can really field the position.Tighten up the whole infield,win some more games.Defense first.

Posted by: seanmg | July 18, 2010 10:50 PM | Report abuse

Dunn was correct in not sliding on that play. If he'd broken his momentum to go into a slide, he would have been out. He's not a little utility player who can hit the dirt in a split second.

Posted by: joebleux | July 18, 2010 11:03 PM | Report abuse

joebleux, that's not the spirit we're looking for. Two losses in a row and you're supposed to give up all hope. 100 losses for sure! We're probably going to pass a whole bunch of teams and get the first pick again! All hope is lost! Fire Rizzo! Fire the manager! Fire the coaches! Trade Dunn, Willingham, Capps, Guzman, Zim, even Strasburg! I mean, what good is it to have him here? He's going to the Yankees in seven years anyway! The only guy we should keep is Morse, he's going to the Hall...

Hope that helps you figure out things...

Posted by: baltova1 | July 18, 2010 11:48 PM | Report abuse

I gotta disagree, joebleax, on Dunn not sliding. Ignoring his teammates when the play is close is a bit of dis to them. And Dunn got tagged out on a similar play earlier this season. If sliding were so useless, nobody would do it. It makes tagging the runner out a lot harder, the vast majority of the time.

But the way the Nats are scoring right now, it's a moot point.

Posted by: nats24 | July 19, 2010 12:06 AM | Report abuse

baltova: nice try, but you forgot to DFA all of the utility players. Details like this are important in attaining proper post-loss hysteria.

Posted by: joebleux | July 19, 2010 12:06 AM | Report abuse

Auggghhhhh! joebleux, you're right! Now I've failed, too!

It's contagious! I'm probably a carrier of the failure virus now! Put me on the list, right behind the utility players.

it's been nice knowing all of you...

Posted by: baltova1 | July 19, 2010 12:14 AM | Report abuse

Sorry if I responded to heavy sarcasm. This late, who knew?

Posted by: nats24 | July 19, 2010 12:42 AM | Report abuse

It's kinda petty to be ragging on Dunn for not sliding at home on Saturday.

His teammates were telling him to get down, yes. But he's coming in from 3rd, and the catcher is looking towards right center, from where the baseball is coming. He correctly read the catcher, that the throw not bearing down on him but was a bit to the first base side of the plate. He knew he needed to stay wide of the plate, and he did.

I think it was actually a bit of thoughtful base running, something we don't see a lot of around these parts.

Posted by: Sunderland | July 19, 2010 6:20 AM | Report abuse

The first thing required to fix a problem is to acknowledge it.

So, even allowing for the probability that some things are being said behind closed doors that aren't being said in public, I am sick to death of "well, we saw some positive things there, some good at bats, guys getting on base" (I am paraphrasing) and "we know we're a good team, just need to execute," blah blah blah.

We're in mid-July, the team has been struggling to score runs since mid-May, this is not an aberration, it is a problem, and it needs, as they like to say, "adjustments." And before you can make the adjustments, you need to recognize and admit the problem.

The team needs, and the fans deserve, an acknowledgment from Riggleman that the defense and baserunning have been indefensively bad, and will be worked on. Then, there needs to be an acknowledgment that one run-producing hit in 27 innings won't cut it, especially when 3-4-5 guys are watching third strikes down the middle. You can't put a ball in play with the bat on your shoulder. I understand the importance of being selective, but what happened to the idea of protecting the plate with a 2-strike count?

The team is failing in fundamental baseball, and their refusal to acknowledge it, and insist they are a good team while playing at a level that, excluding the first six weeks of the season, represents little if any improvement from last year, is maddening.

I'm glad to hear that Eckstein is pained. I'd be happier to hear about something being done to fix the problem.

Posted by: Meridian1 | July 19, 2010 6:47 AM | Report abuse

Eckstein may not be pained enough. Did he come aboard on the cheap also?

Posted by: M20832 | July 19, 2010 7:25 AM | Report abuse

Just a silly thought, but it seems to me that for a lot of this season the parts are clicking, they just aren't clicking at the same time. When a starter throws a gem, the offense goes flat. When the offense is nailing the ball, the bullpen gives up leads. When the bullpen keeps it close, a fielding error costs us the game. All the parts are there, they just aren't coming together at the same time.

Posted by: js_edit | July 18, 2010 9:11 PM

That is still the definition of a loser.

I was glad to be wrong about Stammen yesterday though.

But as I said last year when they were looking for a manager - Riggleman was a career .440 manager (they were only good last year when Morgan was enthusiastic and playing out of his mind) and that's what we have.

Posted by: charley42 | July 19, 2010 7:38 AM | Report abuse

Now that some of the panic mode seems to have subsided, I'm back with some more serious thoughts. But first, blaming coaches is silly, especially after you acknowledge that this team is lacking in talent. Eckstein isn't the problem and he can only do so much to be be part of the solution. It comes down to talent.

It's great to point out this team has fundamental flaws and criticize the Nats for not fixing them during the season, but here's the problem: they're inconsistent offensively and bad defensively. You can't fix them both; you're not going to get all-around players in trades, waiver deals or minor league callups.

You can fix one or the other. It looks to me like Riggleman is trying to spark the offense with the middle infield rotation, which doesn't include Gonzalez, their best fielder. Hasn't worked yet.

This is yet another reason why Morgan's been such a disappointment. Last year, he helped both offensively and defensively and this year he's hurting both categories.

No easy solutions, at least not in mid-year.

Posted by: baltova1 | July 19, 2010 8:26 AM | Report abuse

baltova: nice try, but you forgot to DFA all of the utility players. Details like this are important in attaining proper post-loss hysteria.

Posted by: joebleux | July 19, 2010 12:06 AM

Don't forget trading our bad players for good players. Fans always seem to think that's possible!

Posted by: Kev29 | July 19, 2010 8:38 AM | Report abuse

At this point I look longingly at the description of Riggleman as a ".440 manager."

That might be about where the Nats are now, but it is not where they are headed. Since mid May, they are playing about .350, so I'd like to see some of that .440.

Posted by: KenNat | July 19, 2010 9:07 AM | Report abuse

Happened to be in Fl. and went to all three games with the Marlins. This team (Nats) are lifeless. There was no energy, cohesiveness or emotion. It seems they just didn't care. They say a team copies the temperment of the manager. Oh well, another high draft pick.

Posted by: boyn4884 | July 19, 2010 9:13 AM | Report abuse

baltova and joebleux, way to bring the snark in the wee hours. You guys really got after it. Good game! ;-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | July 19, 2010 9:18 AM | Report abuse

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