Nats improving as close-knit team

Craig Stammen spent his day off on Tuesday in Philadelphia trying to relax and enjoy the City of Brotherly Love before rain spoiled the idea of soaking up the city.

The Nats starter will be facing a Phillies lineup that is so tenacious and troublesome. On Monday, the Phils came back from a four run deficit to beat the Nats in their home opener. This is a ballclub that never gives up. No lead is ever safe against the fighting Phils.

Stammen told me he was pleased that he didn’t walk a batter in his first outing against the Phillies. He knows the key against them is throwing strikes, getting ahead and showing them he isn’t afraid.

As far as improving on his last outing, he admitted he didn’t get his off-speed pitches over for strikes, so they didn’t have to respect them. When he tried to throw his off-speed pitches with two strikes, hitters just didn’t think about hitting them. If he can get those over early in the count, he said that would make them more honest and not on his fastball so much.

As for facing slugger Ryan Howard, Stammen said it’s all about staying focused. But, you have to be aware of Howard because he can easily make a small inning into a big one with one swing of the bat.

The Mad Capper...
Nats closer Matt Capps has a save in each of the Nats’ three wins on the season. He told me he is pleased with the makeup of this ballclub and that the pitchers are eager to help each other out.

Capps and Tyler Walker have similar deliveries and the two relievers have made a pact to help each other out if they see anything notable with the other’s delivery. Capps also said all the relievers are willing to help each other out.

As far as the benches clearing incident in New York, Capps said something like that can bring a ballclub together.

Nyjer Morgan put it best when he told me the Nats players are like a family and they all have each other’s backs.

Along those lines, Jason Marquis was glad his manager Jim Riggleman stuck up for him when the team felt he was getting squeezed by the umpire on Opening Day in Philly. Riggleman had words for the umpire and was tossed from the game.

These may seem like minor happenings but it’s all the beginning of a team bonding and ultimately becoming better.