Lineup, Hanrahan bail out Stammen

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Stop the presses: The Nats won a ballgame! It took a late rally, with four straight singles in the eighth, but they pulled off a 5-4 victory over the Pirates to snap a seven-game losing streak.

Plenty of nuggets from this one to recap…

— Craig Stammen was impressive. Really impressive. He retired the first 12 batters he faced and 19 of the first 20. With a nice sinker that registered between 90 and 92 mph, he had the Pirates completely off-balance for six innings. But this is the major leagues, and eventually hitters are going to start figuring a guy out. So it wasn’t totally surprising that Stammen allowed three runs to score in the seventh on a walk, a two-run homer, a double and a single. Suddenly, a 3-1 lead turned into a 4-3 deficit and left the 25-year-old in line to take the loss. “I thought I controlled my emotions and my thought process pretty well,” he said. “It’s just I didn’t make pitches when I needed to. Third time through the lineup, I needed to make some better pitches.” He’ll learn from those mistakes and be better for it next time he starts.

— Stammen, of course, wasn’t charged with the loss because the Nats rallied in impressive fashion in the eighth. Cristian Guzman, Nick Johnson, Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn all singled in succession to cap the rally. It’s notable that those four guys, the top four guys in Manny Acta’s lineup, have been producing all year. Combined, they’ve scored 110 of Washington’s 210 runs and accounted form 103 of the team’s 203 RBI. “They set the tone, those guys,” Acta said. “They’ve been money for us offensively, getting on base and swinging a hot bat the whole time. Those are the guys you want up there any time we’re in a pinch.”

— This win also wouldn’t have been possible without a dominant ninth from Joel Hanrahan. One night after bouncing sliders all over the place and allowing the winning run to score on a wild pitch, Hanrahan went back to his bread-and-butter. He threw 19 pitches in the ninth. Seventeen of them were fastballs, including a 96-mph inside heater that got Ramon Vazquez looking and a 97-mph scorcher that Delwyn Young couldn’t catch up with to end the game. “It’s something I’ve been trying to work on,” Hanrahan said of the emphasis on fastballs. “I’m challenging the hitter more.” As catcher Josh Bard put it: “At the end of the day, you can never forget that a 97-mph fastball is tough to hit, regardless of where it’s at. So throw it hard and challenge guys. I think Hanrahan did a better job of that today.”

— Finally, Anderson Hernandez did not sprain his right pinky finger as the Nationals officially announced. He actually dislocated it at some point in the fourth inning. When Hernandez took off his batting glove and saw his finger bent all the way backwards to his wrist, he worried the thing was broken. But X-rays were negative and the finger was popped back into place. Acta said the second baseman could be available to return tomorrow night.

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Mark Zuckerman

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