Lost in some of the rough outings for the bullpen has been the consistent pitching of right-hander Craig Stammen. More often than not, Stammen has come in during high-pressure situations and delivered.
A case in point was Monday night versus St. Louis. Stammen relieved starter Dan Haren, who had allowed a hit by pitch, two singles and walk. Already with a run in, the Cardinals were one big hit away from blowing a close game wide open.
But Stammen steadied the inning. With the bases loaded, Stammen induced a 3-2-3 double play, allowed a hard-fought walk to the feisty Pete Kozma and struck out Shelby Miller to end the threat.
Then Stammen was called upon to pitch the seventh. He gave up a pair of hits to Matt Carpenter and Allen Craig, but again induced a 5-4-3 double play and got Carlos Beltran on a groundout to end the inning.
It was another example of the many facets of Stammen's pitching success. Stammen can be a specialist to get either a lefty or righty out. He can go long. He can even start. Manager Davey Johnson has shown confidence in Stammen in several spots.
"I didn't really want to bring him in," manager Davey Johnson said. "I wanted to give him two days off. But I needed to change the way things were going at the time. He threw two innings after one day off. He is a horse. He is strong. He has a pretty resilient arm. He can throw a lot. He is my long man. He has had as many appearances as anyone out there."
Indeed, Stammen has the second-most appearances by a reliever (seven), and tops the bullpen in innings pitched with 10 2/3.
Since 2011, it would be difficult to find a more consistent pitcher at getting guys out. In 109 1/3 innings since his September 2011 call up, Stammen has allowed only 28 earned runs for a 2.30 ERA. He is 9-3 with one save in his past 73 games.
Johnson has spoken in the past about having four guys that could close. Stammen could also be a setup guy on this team with Tyler Clippard or Drew Storen.
"If you remember last year, I had both he and (Tom) Gorzelanny setting up at times," Johnson said. "I like the fact that he can give me more innings. He is better suited to be my long man and that spot start."
Back in 2009 and 2010, Stammen made 38 starts for the Nationals. In 2011, he made 24 starts for Triple-A Syracuse.
But if he is not saving games in the final innings, he certainly has been the pitcher that has saved games for the Nationals in the sixth or seventh.
"He is very well suited," Johnson said. "He has got good stuff. You bring him in with men on base, he gets ground balls. He is very durable. Ever since he arrived with the expanded rosters in 2011, he has been a big part of the winning effort here."