Nationals 5, Rockies 2: Second Look

The Nationals climbed back over .500 with a 5-2 win over the Colorado Rockies on Monday night at Nationals Park, and we’re here this morning to analyze some of the finer points from the game in Second Look. Let’s get right into it:

Golden Geese
Craig Stammen: The right-hander pitched 1 1/3 innings in his last start, with his adrenaline-fueled delivery leading him to overthrow and take some sink off his two-seamer. A talk with Livan Hernandez got Stammen straightened out, though, and he used all of his pitches effectively in an eight-inning, two-run start to earn his second win of the year.

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Willie Harris: The outfielder was hitting .150 before last night, and he was well aware of it. He responded with a three-run homer off the right-field foul pole in the second inning, and drove in another run with a sac fly later. Harris went 2-for-3 with four RBI. “Hitting a buck-fifty, sooner or later you’re going to get sat on the bench,” Harris said. “I was happy for myself and for the team.”

Matt Capps: Capps allowed one hit, but nothing else, in the ninth inning of Monday’s win, earning his sixth save in six tries. Capps threw 13 of his 18 pitches for strikes, which is typically how he works. There’s none of the hemming and hawing the Nationals got with Joel Hanrahan; Capps challenges hitters, and if they can’t hit it, he wins. He’ll get beat at some point with that approach, but he’s been superb for the Nationals so far.

Goose Eggs
Ryan Zimmerman: The third baseman has been hitting well lately, but went 0-for-4 on Monday, grounding out with the bases loaded in the second inning. He was part of a sharp defensive effort in the win, though.

Adam Kennedy: It’s hard to put Kennedy here, too, because the second baseman made a couple impressive defensive plays to turn two double plays (we’ll get to those later). But he was 0-for-3, also leaving the bases loaded in the third inning.

In Case You Missed It:
--Stammen’s curveball is the pitch that most scouts identify as his best, but it hasn’t worked for him in his first two starts of the regular season. So on Monday, he introduced it later in the game, starting with a fastball-slider-changeup combination and going to his curveball once hitters had seen his other pitches. It helped lead to five strikeouts, which tied Stammen’s career high.

--The Nationals backed Stammen up with an impressive defensive performance that included two double plays from Adam Kennedy and Ian Desmond. The first came in the fourth inning, when Kennedy snagged a hard liner from Ian Stewart and flipped to Desmond at second to double off Brad Hawpe. And in the sixth, Desmond made a rangy play at shortstop, going to his right to field a Troy Tulowitzki grounder and making an off-balance throw to Kennedy, who narrowly turned it around second in time to hit an outstretched Adam Dunn at first.

--Of the Nationals’ eight regulars, seven saw more than four pitches per plate appearance (Nyjer Morgan, Kennedy, Dunn, Josh Willingham, Harris, Desmond and Stammen). Kennedy saw 24 in four plate appearances, and even Stammen got 18 pitches in three plate appearances, doing an impressive job of working counts and coming up with a single of his own. It was a big part of the reason Rockies starter Aaron Cook was gone after three innings and 83 pitches.

Talking Points:
1. What do you make of Stammen’s night? Was it an outlier, or a sign of what he can be when he’s pitching well. Scouts love his stuff and his approach, and he’s become an underrated favorite of theirs. What do you think of him?

2. Harris has a .367 OBP, despite the fact he’s hitting .217. Does his ability to get on base help make up for the lack of power in right field, or are you still waiting for someone else (Justin Maxwell, Mike Morse, an outside acqusition) to seize the job? Basically, are you OK with the platoon options that are there?

3. The Nationals are 7-6, and three of their seven wins are against 2009 playoff teams. How surprised are you with the start?

If you’d like to peruse a recap of last night’s live thread, it’s here. And audio from yesterday is here. Plenty more throughout the day, including a look at the Nationals’ improved weapons on the basepaths and a discussion of many of the prospects you’ve been asking about with player development director Doug Harris, so check back often for new stuff.

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