Results tagged ‘ Craig Stammen ’
There were more than 8,400 Nationals fans who packed the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center on Saturday afternoon.
And because of them, it was an unforgettable day.
We can’t say “Thank you” enough to those of you who were able to join us, and share in our excitement for the 2014 season.
Here is a small glimpse into the day that was, and with just 17 days remaining until pitchers and catchers report, hopefully this will warm your baseball-loving souls for just a little bit longer.
Prior to the Third Annual Wounded Warrior Celebrity Softball Classic this Sunday, members of the team joined with celebrity participants and Nationals pitcher Craig Stammen to go help their fellow heroes. Omar Miller (CSI: Miami), Brian Dietzen (NCIS) and Sakina Jaffrey (House of Cards) joined the Wounded Warrior team on a trip to Ft. Belvoir, where they met with groups of veterans using another sport – golf – to help them reacclimate to life after combat. Much like softball, the sport helps bring a measure of normalcy and serenity back to these soldiers’ lives.
Steve Griner is the head PGA Professional of the Ft. Belvoir Wounded Warrior Golf Program, which currently enrolls about 80 veterans and family members.
“I guess one would say, unfortunately, the numbers keep growing,” said Griner of the program’s enrollment. “But we’re helping more and more people. It’s always unfortunate that there are people that have been injured serving their country. But, if that work has to be done, for me to have a part in that, it’s just inspiring.”
After greeting and getting to know many of the members of the program over lunch, the group took to the driving range to hit some balls. While Stammen, a 3.5 handicap, showed off his talent in a second sport (he even grooved an iron shot left-handed), some of the most impressive hits of the day came from Wounded Warrior Greg Reynolds. The WWAST member is missing his entire right arm, but was still smacking shots deep into the range with just his lead arm to provide the power and stability.
For Dietzen, the opportunity to come out and play on a Major League field was certainly a perk, but the reward of getting to know the stories of the Wounded Warriors and playing with them side-by-side provided a greater gift.
“These guys that go out and do everything for us,” said Dietzen, who had previously worked with wounded veterans during a benefit golf tournament out in Los Angeles. “The very least we can do as a country is look after them when they come home, and that doesn’t just mean give them a job and go back to work.”
Miller has been a part of a USO Tour, much like Stammen and fellow Nationals pitcher Ross Detwiler. While he had never worked with wounded veterans before, he realized the significance of the opportunity when it was presented to him, putting this weekend’s events above his own personal schedule.
“I was actually on my way to Vegas for the fight,” said Benson Miller, referencing the championship boxing match taking place this weekend. “And I said, ‘No, you know what? Let me prioritize. This is a lot more important.’ It’s great to come out, hang out, and have fellowship with the guys.”
Stammen, as many know, accompanied the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, on a USO tour last winter. That experience combined with his life as a professional ballplayer and avid golfer made him a perfect candidate to be able to appreciate and understand how both sports can help enrich lives.
“It’s just another way to get away from the aspects of real life, and it puts your mind on something else for about three or four hours,” said Stammen, referencing golf, though he might as well have been talking about baseball.
As for the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team, Stammen has seen them up close and personal each of the last two seasons, as well as in visits to Nationals Spring Training. He’s looking forward to seeing them again after the Nationals finish their series with the Phillies.
“They’re really good at what they do,” he said of the team’s success. “It’s inspiring what they do, and I think it’s going to be an enjoyable evening for everybody.”
To this point in the season, Denard Span’s diving grab in deep left-center field at Nationals Park with two on and two out in the ninth on August 14 has been the signature defensive moment of the year. But Wednesday night in Philadelphia, the Nationals made not one, but two game-saving plays, with each coming from unlikely sources.
The Nationals had just scratched out a run in the top of the eighth to take a 3-2 lead, when, in the bottom half of the frame, the Phillies put runners at first and second with two outs. Speedy leadoff man Cesar Hernandez chopped a ball to the right side of the infield, which Adam LaRoche made a play for, but could not reach. Steve Lombardozzi was shifting to his left at a deeper angle and tracked the ball down on the lip of the outfield grass, but with LaRoche moving away from first, the only person left to cover the bag was pitcher Jordan Zimmermann. As the footrace to the base began, it became clear that if Washington couldn’t get the final out of the inning, John Mayberry Jr. was going to score the tying run from second. Zimmermann and Hernandez converged at first, as Lombardozzi’s throw came in low. The pitcher simultaneously found the bag with his right foot and picked the ball on a short-hop out of the dirt, beating the runner by a fraction of a step to end the frame.
“I was just hoping Lombo was going to hit me in the chest,” explained Zimmermann after the game, then took the chance to rib his teammate. “Instead, he threw it at my feet and made it interesting.”
As for the dig out of the dirt, Zimmermann credited the one man on the right side of the infield not in on the play, tongue still in cheek.
“I’ve gotta give a lot of credit to Rochey. He taught me everything I know.”
Even Zimmermann that he wasn’t looking at the ball all the way into his glove on the play, as the replay showed his head was “in the third deck” as he made the play. Craig Stammen, who would play a role in the second defensive gem of the night, wasn’t about to let his teammate off the hook so easily.
“I told him, ‘Nice play, you should have seen it,’” joked the right-hander, who came on to get the final two outs of the eighth.
Those two outs would come on the same play, but in truly unique, bizarre fashion. In fact, with all the baseball he’s seen in his 70 years on the planet, this one was new even to manager Davey Johnson.
“That’s the first time I’ve ever seen a double play that way,” he said.
With one out and runners at the corners, Stammen bounced a two-strike slider to Darin Ruf, who swung and missed for strike three. With a runner at first, Ruf could not attempt to advance, marking the second out of the frame. But the ball skipped away to catcher Jhonatan Solano’s left, with the runner, Chase Utley, breaking for home. Solano raced to corral the ball, in foul territory slightly up the third base line, but when he glanced up to see if Stammen was at the plate in time for the tag, he elected instead to try to make the play himself, diving towards Utley – who was diving toward the plate – and applying the tag to Utley’s midsection just before the runner’s hands crossed the plate.
Together, they formed two tremendous, non-traditional defensive gems, the first saving the go-ahead run from scoring and the second preventing the game-tying run from crossing the plate. They added up to a crucial victory, giving Washington the road series win in Philadelphia as they continue this crucial, three-city September road trip.
Washington Nationals (60-62) vs. Atlanta Braves (75-48)
LHP Gio Gonzalez (7-5, 3.42) vs. RHP Julio Teheran (9-6, 3.08)
A little less than 13 hours after wrapping up a marathon 8-7, 15-inning win, the Nationals will send Gio Gonzalez to the mound in search of a series victory over the Braves. Sunday’s matchup will be Gonzalez’s fourth against Atlanta this season, including his third at Turner Field. The southpaw has stifled the Braves in his last two outings against them, allowing just three runs on nine hits in 14 innings, walking two and striking out 12.
1. Denard Span CF
2. Anthony Rendon 2B
3. Bryce Harper LF
4. Jayson Werth RF
5. Adam LaRoche 1B
6. Ian Desmond SS
7. Chad Tracy 3B
8. Kurt Suzuki C
9. Gio Gonzalez LHP
BULLISH ON THE ‘PEN
Following Stephen Strasburg’s early exit Saturday, the Nationals bullpen fired 14 innings, striking out a Major League record 19 Braves (1971-present). The combination of Tanner Roark, Drew Storen, Craig Stammen and Dan Haren, who earned his first-career save, pitched what amounted to a full game, tallying eye-popping numbers: 9.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 16 K. Meanwhile, rookie left-hander Ian Krol, following a tough loss the previous night, navigated the Nationals through the pressure-packed 10th and 11th innings without allowing a run.
MOORE, TYLER PLEASE
Tyler Moore was recalled from Triple-A Syracuse prior to Saturday night’s game, and went 2-for-4 with a run scored while playing eight innings of flawless defense at first base. During his recent stint with the Chiefs, Moore compiled a .367/.442/.664 slash line, blasting eight home runs and plating a whopping 38 RBI in 33 games. Moore was lifted in the ninth in favor of Adam LaRoche, and the move paid off – albeit six innings later – when LaRoche belted the game-deciding home run.
SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER
Some staggering numerical mementos from Washington’s 15-inning 8-7 win at Turner Field:
0 number of Braves hits with runners in scoring position in 15 innings
1 position players remaining on the bench for either team (Kurt Suzuki)
2 number of career 15th-inning homers hit by Adam LaRoche (also August 24, 2007 for Pittsburgh at Houston)
4 number of extra-inning games between the Braves and Nationals this season
10 minutes first pitch delayed by rain
18 combined number of pitchers to pitch in the game
19 strikeouts notched by Washington’s bullpen
35 number of wins, against just 12 losses, when the Nationals score last in a game
44 combined players used by both clubs
126 plate appearances in the game
319 career appearances for Dan Haren upon earning first career save
329 minutes passed during game’s duration
513 pitches in game (335 strikes)
1413 days since the Nationals last 15-inning game, a 2-1 win over the Braves on 10/4/09. Ian Desmond, Ryan Zimmerman & Tyler Clippard (Nationals) and Adam LaRoche, Brian McCann, Rafael Soriano and Kris Medlen (Braves) also played in that contest.
“I feel like we were just destined to win that game, some way, somehow.”
Those words came from Dan Haren, maybe the most unlikely of heroes from a game full of them, saturated with storylines from both dugouts.
Saturday night was supposed to be about Bryce Harper, about unwritten baseball rules, about the rising tension between the Nationals and the Braves as they battled through the dog days of summer. But amidst a bizarre game in which two of the best young pitchers in baseball each failed to escape the second inning, it became a story of a true team effort in which 21 of the 25 men on the Washington roster played a role. In the end, the Nationals prevailed after 15 innings and nearly five-and-a-half hours, by a final of 8-7.
While any 15-inning affair will naturally be referred to most commonly as a marathon, this division rivalry felt more like a long distance relay race, with one reliever handing the baton to the next, over and over again. In all, 18 different pitchers were used by the two clubs – nine each – including the starters, each club’s entire seven-man bullpen, and two more starters to close it out.
Along the way, Washington set a number of records. The 15 innings matched the longest game in Nationals history, equaling the 2009 season finale, a 2-1 win over none other than the Braves at Turner Field. The five-hour, 29-minute affair was the lengthiest in terms of time elapsed. Meanwhile, the 19 strikeouts compiled by the Washington bullpen shattered the all-time Major League mark, at least as far back as anyone can be sure. The records for such a stat only date back to 1971, to which point the highest total ever compiled by a relief staff in a single game was 16. But considering the way the sport had evolved, with increased strikeout rates and higher bullpen usage, it’s hard to imagine any club amassing a comparable total in any previous era.
Following Stephen Strasburg’s second-inning ejection, Tanner Roark was the first Nationals reliever to answer the call, entering a 4-2 game and providing four innings of one-hit, scoreless relief with six strikeouts. Drew Storen tossed a perfect seventh inning, striking out the side. Ian Krol rebounded from a tough Friday night outing to put up two more scoreless frames in extra innings, and Craig Stammen followed a two-inning stint Friday night with a 55-pitch, three-inning scoreless stretch to get the game to the 15th inning.
Of course, in the midst of the impressive relief outings, the Braves tied the game in the ninth, making all of the extra pomp and circumstance necessary in the first place. But neither team would score again until the 15th inning, when Adam LaRoche punished a hanging breaking ball from Kris Medlen for a moonshot to right field, the ball searing through the mist at Turner Field before coming to rest in the bleachers, a dozen rows deep, giving the Nationals the lead once more.
That left the game to Haren, summoned from the bullpen to make his first relief appearance since 2004. Haren had thrown his routine side work prior to the game, tossing 30-35 pitches, which he followed with an upper body workout. But when Strasburg’s evening was cut short, several hours earlier, he offered up his services, should they be needed. They were.
“I’m proud of him for even doing that,” said Randy Knorr, who took over as manager when Davey Johnson was ejected along with Strasburg. “A lot of guys wouldn’t even have gone down there after throwing a bullpen.”
Haren allowed a single, but that was all, striking out Jordan Schafer flailing at a splitter, his bat sent cartwheeling towards the Braves dugout to end the game. That netted Haren first Major League save, and only his second as a professional, the other coming more than 12 years prior as a member of the New Jersey Cardinals of the Short-season New York Penn League on July 15, 2001 against the Lowell Spinners.
“I’m only supposed to do media every five days,” Haren joked as the huddle approached his locker after 1 a.m. local time.
In the end, the Nationals went home with a big road victory in Atlanta. Their reward. Both clubs get a whopping 12 hours and 46 minutes between the final out and the first pitch on Sunday afternoon. Haren summed it up best when all was said and done.
“Five-hour games are fine when you win them. But when you lose them, they really stink.”