The setup was eerily similar: The Phillies were debuting their prized pitching acquisition, a right-hander named Roy that they brought in for a bundle of prospects, tempting fans to drive down to Nationals Park and see the new ace. The Nationals were countering with a middle-round pick from the 2005 draft - this one the right-hander that roomed with the left-hander they started on Opening Day.
Even the first pitch, the most anticipated ceremonial throw at Nationals Park since the opener, sailed to about the same spot - high and into the right-handed batter’s box.
Call it Opening Day Lite, Friday’s game against the Phillies that had so many of the same parameters as the Nationals’ 11-1 embarrassment during the first game of the season. Friday was the first time sine that night the Nationals had faced the Phillies at home, and with Roy Oswalt making his Philadelphia debut, the potential for another thrashing was looming.
And there was a thrashing. It was just the Phillies on the receiving end of it.
Instead of John Lannan getting hit around while Roy Halladay shut the Nationals down, Craig Stammen ended his own futile stretch against the Phillies with 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball. The Nationals scored five runs in six innings on Oswalt. And in the Nationals’ 8-1 win, it was the Phillies making the bone-headed mistakes.
Carlos Ruiz threw to third base on Adam Kennedy’s third-inning bunt single...only to see there was nobody covering the base. Stammen scored easily. In the top of that inning, the Nationals recorded a 9-3 putout on Oswalt, with Adam Dunn loitering off the first-base bag long enough to make Oswalt think he had an easy single.
By the seventh inning , the pro-Phillies contingent of the 32,590 in attendance was headed for the exits. The Nationals fans were the ones staying and cheering at the end.
“You definitely want to hear your team being shouted (for) rather than the Phillies,” Stammen said. “For the most part, they were a little quieter today, and that’s a good thing, especially in our stadium.”
After a 3-7 road trip, the Nationals have now won three of four at home against the top two teams in the NL East.
Stammen, who was coming off a five-inning, three-run outing in Milwaukee that he thought was better than the results showed, got bumped back a day like the rest of the Nationals’ pitching staff with Scott Olsen pitching on Thursday. That meant he went from facing the Braves, who he beat with one of his best outings of the year in June, to the Phillies, against whom he had made two starts totaling a combined 6 1/3 innings this year.
His first thought when he found out he was facing the Phillies? “I owed them one,” Stammen said.
He did on Friday, striking out five and allowing five hits in 6 1/3 innings. Aside from the homer he gave up to Jayson Werth, Stammen was nearly flawless, locating his fastball and getting nine groundouts in six innings.
“I think he’s actually thrown the ball well, and in a lot of games, he’s pitched well,” manager Jim Riggleman said. “It’s a good time for it to come together for him, and hopefully he’ll continue this.”
The offense stomped out a total of 11 hits, getting its top two batters on base six times in 10 plate appearances. And the Phillies’ mishaps just added a little fun in a matchup that hasn’t brought much of it to the Nationals.
“Whenever they make (mistakes) like that, you’ve got to take advantage of that,” said outfielder Roger Bernadina, who had a pair of doubles and two RBI. “Today, it worked out for us.”