Lessons learned

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Craig Stammen pitched pretty well tonight. Unfortunately, pretty well doesn’t cut it against the Red Sox, who pulled out a 6-4 win before another record-setting crowd of 41,530 at Nationals Park.

For three innings, the Nationals’ rookie right-hander was dazzling, retiring all nine Boston batters he faced and throwing 28 of his 33 pitches for strikes. But one of the toughest things for young starters to learn is how to get major league hitters out two and even three times in the same night.

Stammen still needs to learn how to do that. The Red Sox torched him for six runs from the fourth through the sixth innings. The big blow, of course, was David Ortiz’s three-run homer in the fourth. The 425-foot blast came on a 3-2 changeup, a pitch called by catcher Wil Nieves but one Stammen wishes he could have had back.

“That was a pretty big mental mistake on my part,” he said. “I’ve got to be able to shake that pitch off and throw what I wanted to throw.”

Manny Acta agreed. “The whole game was based on that 3-2 changeup to David,” the manager said. “I think next time around, he’ll know that he has to go to his best pitch in that type of situation.”

Such are the lessons a rookie starter must learn. Though the Nats rallied to score three late runs, the 6-1 hole Stammen dug was too deep to climb out of.

This could be the last time we see Stammen for a little while. Scott Olsen made his fourth rehab start tonight and looked sharp in holding Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to two runs over six innings. Olsen threw 58 of his 75 pitches for strikes, an encouraging sign. It seems logical he’ll be activated off the DL and start five days from now: Monday at Florida.

Stammen (1-3 with a 5.49 ERA) has pitched much better than his numbers would indicate. But someone has to go, and the thinking here is that his demotion would make more sense than Ross Detwiler, who has flashed a bit more potential and who as a No. 1 draft pick honestly has a much higher ceiling than Stammen does.

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Mark Zuckerman

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