Through the first season and a half of his conversion from starter to relief pitcher, the Nationals Craig Stammen had it going on pretty well.
He was 6-1 with a 2.34 earned run average in 2012, arguably as effective as any Nats reliever. His 2013 season got off to a good start, too. But he’s hit a wall lately. Stammen has given up 10 earned runs in his past 10 outings, including two on Saturday as the Nats lost to the Dodgers in 10 innings. He’s 5-5 with a 3.96 ERA now.
“It’s one of those things, it is the battle of baseball, dealing with failure,” Stammen said Sunday morning as the Nats gathered to prepare for the series finale with the Dodgers. “We fail so many times throught the season, throughout our career. You have to find a way to deal with it mentally, and you have to surround yourself with the right people who will encourage you and stay positive.”
Most of it, Stammen said, is on him.
“I’m a pretty inward person,” he said. “I feel like I can handle most things on my own. You have to be able to evaluation yourself correctly. Sometimes the results aren’t the correct evaluation. [Saturday night], the results were the correct evaluation. Those were bad pitches with bad results. Two weeks ago, there were some hits happening and I was making good pitches. The results weren’t what the effectiveness was.
“Back then, I wasn’t too worried. [Saturday] made me a little worried about why I couldn’t execute any pitches.”
It is not a great time to be struggling (if there is such a thing as a great time to struggle). Reliever Ryan Mattheus, out two months with a broken hand, is wrapping up a rehab assignment and could be back within a week. The Nats will have to make room for him somewhere and Stammen does have an option remaining.
Stammen is bright enough to know what’s going on but says it can’t enter his mind.
“If you start worrying about that, you’re done. Done like dinner,” Stammen said. “You keep your blinders on and worry about getting better in the future instead of what’s happened in the past. I can’t change the past.
“You have to embrace adversity and do the best you can with it and take it on full force.”
Adam LaRoche is back and feeling better after missing two games with the flu, and he’s in Sunday’s lineup against Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw. Denard Span is getting the day off as Bryce Harper will slide into Span’s usual roles - leadoff hitter and center fielder. Scott Hairston starts in left field.
It is an excellent pitching matchup, as Kershaw takes his 8-6 record and 1.98 earned run average against Jordan Zimmermann (12-3, 2.58). Zimmermann has been dealing with a neck issue that prohibited him from pitching in last Tuesday’s All-Star game.
Carl Crawford, LF
Nick Punto, 3B
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Andre Ethier, RF
Matt Kemp, CF
A.J. Ellis, C
Clayton Kershaw, P
Bryce Harper, CF
Anthony Rendon, 2B
Ryan Zimmerman, 3B
Jayson Werth, RF
Adam LaRoche, 1B
Ian Desmond, SS
Scott Hairston, LF
Kurt Suzuki, C
Jordan Zimmermann, P