Tuesday, May 22, 2012
On Desmond, Stammen and Harper
PHILADELPHIA -- We kind of got caught up in the ninth-inning drama from last night's game, and if you're interested in even more discussion about Henry Rodriguez and what the Nationals are going to do with their closer's role now, I would encourage you to watch the above video.
But there were plenty of other significant developments that played out during the 2-1 win over the Phillies, and we wouldn't want to ignore those altogether. So let's run through the other hot postgame topics of discussion...
-- Ian Desmond once again produced at the plate. With a second-inning homer (his seventh of the season) and a fourth-inning RBI single, he wound up driving in both of the Nationals' runs. Desmond seems to have taken quite well to the fifth spot in this new-look lineup -- he's 5-for-13 with three doubles, a homer and four RBI -- and he certainly seems comfortable as a middle-of-the-lineup hitter.
The third-year shortstop had an interesting explanation for his sudden power surge, which you can read in Chase Hughes' postgame article on CSNwashington.com.
-- Also lost in the shuffle a bit was another fantastic performance by Craig Stammen, who took over for Gio Gonzalez in the seventh and wound up tossing two scoreless innings. How remarkable (and unexpected) is it that the 28-year-old right-hander has transformed himself from a back-of-the-rotation also-ran into a long reliever into one of the most-dominant setup men in the majors?
Though he admits he's surprised how this all worked out, Stammen isn't surprised that he's been able to make this transition, thanks in large part to the manner in which Davey Johnson has been using him since Opening Day.
"The way Davey's used me pretty much the entire year is if a lefty starter is pitching, I was kind of getting in the game at any point," he said. "So there's been games, not necessarily we were winning 2-0, but we're losing 2-1 or it's tied. I've been in games like that. So pitching in close ballgames is nothing new. To me, it's the same whether you're winning or losing. If it's close, you can't give them an inch."
With Henry Rodriguez struggling and Brad Lidge and Drew Storen still recovering from injury, some have questioned whether Stammen could take over as closer. He does have a little experience doing that at the University of Dayton, but he's not expecting to get the call from Johnson yet.
"I'll leave that up to him," Stammen said. "I did that in college, and it was pretty fun. We'll see. I don't think I've quite earned it yet. There's other people in our bullpen that have done the job quite well over the years."
-- Perhaps the biggest storyline entering the game was Bryce Harper making his first appearance at Citizens Bank Park, but that didn't turn out to be much of an issue. Yes, the kid was booed every time he stepped to the plate, but the catcalls almost seemed cursory, as if the Philly crowd felt like it was just supposed to boo Harper but not entirely sure why.
No Duracells or Energizers were thrown in Harper's direction, though it did appear someone tossed some kind of garbage near him as he caught a flyball in the ninth.
Perhaps the most interesting interaction Harper had yesterday came hours before the game, as Chase explains in this piece on CSNwashington.com.
Posted by Mark Zuckerman at 11:00 AM