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Craig Stammen has struck out six of the last seven batters he's faced.
"Because every single person I know was watching the game," he said. "And rooting for the Reds. So that makes it good that I pitched well against them."
Stammen didn't just pitch well against his childhood favorites. He obliterated them. For the second straight day.
In two appearances against the Reds, Stammen has faced seven total batters and struck out six of them. And since both appearances came in extra innings, shortly before his Nationals teammates rallied to score, he's emerged with two wins.
"I'm very blessed," he said. "It's fun pitching against the team that you grew up watching and know everything about. I don't know if it's extra motivation, but it gets you a little more pumped up."
A starter for most of his career at the University of Dayton and then in both the minor and major leagues, Stammen is in semi-unfamiliar territory these days, pitching out of the bullpen as a long reliever. He's adjusted to the role well; in 11 combined relief appearances dating back to last season, the 28-year-old has a 1.13 ERA and a 19-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Stammen, in his "Aw, Shucks" Ohio manner, insists he's just happy to be in the big leagues, no matter his role. But he does seem to appreciate the way manager Davey Johnson has been using him, especially in extra innings the last two days.
"It's a lot easier to pitch when you have a 3- or 4-run lead and you can just throw strikes and go after hitters," he said. "But when you come in extra-inning games, you know you can't give up a run. You have to be spot-on with all of your stuff."
And it certainly helps when you know your entire hometown is watching, distraught over the fact you just beat their favorite team.