In today's overcast game, Craig Stammen was a star. After he gave up a 2-run home run to Casey Blake, Stammen relaxed and turned into a machine. He had commanding breaking pitches, and his fastball locations were sublime. His ERA was above 8 and it dropped below 7. He helped himself out of a few jams with 2 double plays. All very exciting stats. Until he gave up yet another home run to Casey Blake in the top of the 7th. This home run should only have tied the game. If it wasn't for another major mental mistake by the Nats.
Last night, I wrote about Willie Harris' big mistake in what was one of the weirdest baseball plays that I had ever seen. Well today's big faux pas wasn't weird as much as it was stupid. First, let me talk up our offensive minded pitchers, because they deserve it. The Washington Nationals' starters do not just go up to the plate to take 3 strikes and sit back down. They take big hacks out there, and it is yielding results. Livan Hernandez was already one of the best hitting pitchers in baseball. Atilano made Haeger work last night. And Stammen nearly killed Kershaw this afternoon. Stammen hit a solid grounder up the middle in the first that went of of Kershaw's foot, had a shot to left for a double, and a grounder up the middle in his final at bat that resulted in the game tying RBI. That put Stammen on 2nd with 2 outs and Nyjer Morgan up to bat. And that's when it got ugly.
Morgan crushed the ball to left center over the left fielder's head. A guaranteed run, right? So you would think. Stammen was trotting home, and Nyjer gets greedy and goes for yet another triple. He got thrown out trying to get there before the slow running Stammen could make it home. It took the lead out of the Nats hands, and the Dodgers hit a homer in the top of the 7th to regain the lead. This type of error is inexcusable. Nyjer Morgan is one of the fastest players in baseball, and the Nats are one of the fastest teams in baseball. But if Nyjer Morgan would have been standing on 2nd, with a 3-2 lead with the young slugger Ian Desmond up to bat, their attempted rally in the 7th wouldn't have been as crucial.
However, in the bottom of the 7th, a sustained rally is killed by Desmond trying to run home on a ground ball to 3rd base. The inning goes from 1 out with runners on 1st and 3rd to 2 outs with runners in 1st and 2nd. Then, Willie Harris grounds out to 2nd and ends the inning. If the Washington Nationals are going to become the better team that they have shown they can be, they absolutely must stop making these stupid errors.
Then, the game went for another 7 innings. That's right, a 14 inning affair. The Nats go down 4-3, due mostly to the running disaster by Nyjer Morgan in the 6th and a questionable call by the home plate umpire in the bottom of the 14th where it appeared that Pudge scored. But when your team makes that many running errors in one game, you're not likely to get the benefit of the doubt.