It's funny how baseball works sometimes. One day, you beat Stephen Strasburg; the next, you get shut down by Craig Stammen. That's no disrespect to Stammen, who may have struggled during most of his major-league career but is certainly capable of being a good pitcher. It's just indicative of the fact that any pitcher can beat you on his best day, just as you can beat any pitcher on his worst day.
Today was, if not Stammen's best day, at least one of his better ones. Through 7 innings, he had given up only 3 hits and 1 run. The run scored when Martin Prado tripled home Gregor Blanco in the third--with a little help from Nationals' center fielder Nyjer Morgan, who completely overran the ball. If Morgan plays that ball better, he likely holds Prado to a single and prevents the run from scoring.
In the 8th, Stammen seemed to tire somewhat, though his pitch count was still fairly low (83 at the start of the inning). After striking out pinch-hitter Matt Diaz, Stammen gave up back-to-back doubles to Prado and Melky Cabrera. That was the end of his night, but all in all it was a very good one. His final line: 7.1 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 4 K, and a 0.166 WPA.
Braves' starter Derek Lowe was not so fortunate. He got through the first 4 innings okay, but ran into trouble in the 5th. He walked Cristian Guzman to start the inning, which is both hard to do and extremely unwise. Alberto Gonzales then singled, and one batter later, so did Nyjer Morgan. That tied the game at one. After Morgan stole second, Ryan Zimmerman took a ball the other way with authority, resulting in a go-ahead ground-rule double. Lowe gave up another run in the 6th (on another single by Gonzales, who was 4/4) before being pulled. His final line was 5.2 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 2 BB (1 IBB), 5 K, and a -0.266 WPA.
Josh Willingham hit a 2-run homer off of Peter Moylan in the 7th, the first outside-the-park homer off of Moylan since opening day of 2008 (also against the Nationals). Stammen made the score 7-1 with a sac fly in the 8th, off of Jesse Chavez.
All in all, there weren't many bright spots tonight for Braves fans. At least the Mets lost (the Phillies won, though). Still, we have a chance to take the series tomorrow night with Jair Jurrjens returning from his long DL stint. So there's something to look forward to.
Gonzales-- 4/4, R, RBI, 0.259 WPA
Zimmerman-- only 1/5, but the 1 hit was the 2-run double; 0.204 WPA
Morgan-- 2/5, R, RBI, SB, K, 0.122 WPA
MVPs in a Losing Effort
Prado-- 2/3, BB, 2B, 3B, R, RBI, 0.164 WPA
Blanco-- 2/3, R, 0.080 WPA
Zimmerman's 2-run double in the 5th (0.248 WPA)
Melky grounding out with the bases loaded to end the Braves' half of the 5th (-0.106 WPA)