The Washington Times - May 21, 2009, 08:17PM

The Nationals could not have asked for anything more out of Craig Stammen so far in his major league debut. The rookie right-hander retired the first 12 Pirates he faced, carrying a perfect game into the fifth inning and creating some buzz among the crowd here at Nationals Park.

No history here, though, because Adam LaRoche led off the fifth with a double down the first-base line, ending that no-hitter bid. The crowd gave Stammen a nice ovation, proving that there are some knowledgable baseball fans left after all.

SEE RELATED:


That hit did turn into a run, but otherwise Stammen has been outstanding. He gets ahead of batters with his sinker, and he’s not wasting pitches at all. Through five innings, he’s thrown only 54 pitches (39 of them strikes). Daniel Cabrera sometimes throws 54 pitches in a single inning.

The Nats have given Stammen a 3-1 lead, thanks to a second-inning double from Willie Harris and a fourth-inning single by Josh Bard. Something tells me three runs won’t be enough to win this game. But at least so far, so good.

One down note for Washington: Anderson Hernandez was replaced at second base by Ronnie Belliard to open the fifth inning. Hernandez sprained his right little finger at some point earlier. He’s being examined further.