May 21, 2009
Whew! The Washington Nationals were only two innings away from losing their eighth consecutive game, which would have been sweeps at the hands of both teams from Pennsylvania, but they finally got their Acta together. They actually led the Pirates for most of the game, as rookie pitcher Craig Stammen threw four perfect innings and then gave up just four hits over the next two and one-third innings. Unfortunately for him, that was enough for the Pirates to get four runs, as Adam LaRoche hit a long two-run blast to the second deck in right-center field, and Stammen left the game in jeopardy of being tagged with the loss. But in the bottom of the eighth, the Nats sluggers all came through in the clutch, as consecutive singles by Guzman, Johnson, Zimmerman, and Dunn took back the lead, 5-4. For once, Joel Hanrahan did his job as closer, only allowing one batter to reach base in the top of the ninth. For Manny Acta to show confidence in him after all the recent travails was pretty impressive. I don't think I would have. Anyway, it was a happy ending for the long-suffering Nats fans, and especially for Craig Stammen and his family, who were at the park to see his first major league start. See MLB.com.
Manager Manny Acta had a closed-door meeting with the team this afternoon, and perhaps it did the trick. Pitching remains an embarrassing weak spot for Washington, but their batting lineup is very solid, and they still rank #3 in the National League, with a .277 team batting average. In other words, the Nats have probably hit rock bottom and can only expect to improve for the rest of the season. They are presently 12-28, right at the .300 mark -- awful but not quite wretched.