CINCINNATI — Craig Stammen got a taste of home this past weekend with numerous friends and family visiting, but they didn’t get to see him pitch.
Stammen and the rest of the Washington Nationals visited Cincinnati for a three-game series against the Reds this past weekend. The Nationals won two of the three games with victories on Friday and Sunday, but Stammen didn’t get an opportunity to play.
“It was good,” Stammen said of his weekend in Cincinnati. “We had an off-day on Thursday so I got to spend a little time with my family and friends. The weekend I saw a lot of people from back home, come to say hi and hopefully see me pitch. Unfortunately that didn’t work out. But we took two out of three from them; our starters did really well.”
The Nationals’ pitchers gave up just three runs in the three games against the Reds.
On Friday Tanner Roark pitched seven innings of one-run baseball with late-inning relievers Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano finishing off the 4-1 victory.
The Nationals lost on Saturday, but Gio Gonzalez only allowed one run in seven innings while Drew Storen pitched a scoreless eighth inning in a 1-0 loss.
Then on Sunday Doug Fister pitched seven scoreless innings. After Clippard pitched a scoreless eighth, Aaron Barrett gave up two runs in the ninth before Soriano came in for the save in the 4-2 victory.
Stammen was warming up in the bullpen on Sunday, but with three strong performances from the Washington starters, he wasn’t needed.
Missing an opportunity to pitch in Cincinnati — a city Stammen used to visit to cheer for the Reds — wasn’t new to the Versailles High School alumnus.
In his first three big league seasons from 2009-11, Stammen didn’t pitch at Great American Ball Park. In 2009 and 2010 he was a starting pitcher for Washington, but his spot in the rotation missed a start in Cincinnati even though both years featured four-games series in the Queen City. Then in 2011 he was pitching for the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs when the Nationals visited the Reds.
“It’s not the first time it’s happened so the family is probably used to it by now,” Stammen said of not pitching in Cincinnati this season.
Stammen did pitch in Cincinnati out of the Nationals bullpen in both 2012 and 2013 — recording a 1-0 record with a 4.15 ERA in two games. For his career the North Star product has a 3-0 record and 1.74 ERA in six games against the Reds.
Overall this season Stammen is 1-4 with a 3.44 ERA in 52.1 innings, which is the most innings pitched by a Washington reliever. He has allowed 47 hits and nine walks while striking out 40 batters on the year. If not for a five-run outing against the Miami Marlins on April 15 and another five-run outing against the Baltimore Orioles on July 7, Stammen’s numbers would be even stronger.
“It’s been a tale of about two bad outings that I’ve had the whole year,” the Versailles graduate said. “That’s kind of made my numbers go up a little bit. But other than that, I’ve thrown the ball really well more times than not. You can’t be disappointed with how I’ve done, and I’ve fulfilled an important role on the team and trying to help this team just win a championship. I think we’re well on our way.”
The Nationals are in good position as they left Cincinnati with a 57-45 record, which is the best in the National League. They finished the weekend 1.5 games ahead of the Atlanta Braves in the NL East standings.
“We’re playing really good defense. We’re pitching really well. We’re getting a few timely hits. That spells for a winning team,” Stammen said. “If we keep that going through August and September, we should be right where we want to be.”
After missing the playoffs last year, the Nationals are looking to get back to the postseason for just the third time in franchise history. Stammen helped them make the playoffs in 2012, which was their first postseason trip since 1981 when they played as the Montreal Expos.
If the Nationals remain healthy over the next couple months, Stammen said, he likes their chances of reaching the postseason.
“We’re in a good spot,” he said. “We’ve been playing well here the last couple months, but we’ve got to finish strong. We’ve got two more months to go and kick it in gear, and hopefully we end the season where we’re at right now.”
Stammen, who owns a home in Cincinnati, said the weekend back in Ohio was refreshing before the start of the stretch run.
“It was nice to see everybody,” Stammen said. “It was nice to have fun, and feel a little piece of home in the summer when you’re in the middle of a long season.”