In the face of adversity, one man rose to the challenge, and his name was Craig.
Stephen Strasburg left tonight’s game after just two innings thanks to a back injury, but Craig Stammen filled in masterfully for him, pitching four perfect innings to bail out the rest of the bullpen and hold on to a skinny lead. The offense returned to its recent form, pounding out nine hits, and joy returned to Natstown as the Nats took the series opener. Everything went as well as it could have, with offense and pitching clicking well in arguably the most important game of the Nationals’ season thus far.
Most Important Nationals Hit: Denard Span‘s second triple (+10.8%)
May 31, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Washington Nationals center fielder Denard Span (2) celebrates with left fielder Roger Bernadina (33) after a win against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
Denard Span led the game off with a triple to left off Julio Teheran. Immediately afterwards, Steve Lombardozzi drove him in with a sacrifice fly to put the Nats on top 1-0. In the sixth inning, they decided to do it again. Span sent a grounder just fair down the right field line that Justin Upton had trouble getting to, and Span arrived at third standing up. Lombardozzi’s fly ball to right put the Nats up 3-1.
Most Important Nationals Pitch: Freddie Freeman‘s RBI single (-12.1%)
This game was really on the ropes in the seventh. Tyler Clippard let Ramiro Pena get a hit and advance to second on a wild pitch before Freeman drove him in, his second RBI of the day, to cut the Nats’ lead to 3-2. Clippard then proceeded to hit the next two batters with pitches and load the bases with one out. Just as surprisingly, he struck out the next two Braves to escape the jam.
Champ of the Game: Stammen (+25.4%) absolutely deserves this. Strasburg’s departure seemed to spell doom for the game, but he entered and retired all twelve Braves he faced, three by strikeout. For Atlanta, Freeman (+13.2%) drove in both of their runs, via a second-inning homer and a sixth-inning single.
Chump of the Game: Ryan Zimmerman (-10.3%) was 0-4 with a strikeout, but missed a home run by just a few feet on a flyout. Chris Johnson (-21.5%) was 0-3 with two strikeouts, including one that ended the sixth and preserved the Nats’ lead.