Stephen Strasburg was sympathetic. Washington's 25-year-old right-hander gave up two runs total in seven innings on the mound in Nats Park last night in the series opener with the Baltimore Orioles, but received no decision in a game that went to extra innings tied up at 2-2 before Craig Stammen took the mound in the eleventh and was hit hard by the Orioles.
Stammen, the Nationals' 30-year-old long reliever, gave up four straight hits to start the frame, two of them home runs.
Nelson Cruz sent a broken bat single to short in the first at bat and O's slugger Chris Davis battled for seven pitches, taking a few close ones that were called balls by home plate ump Gary Cederstrom and then crushed a belt-high 92 mph 3-2 fastball, sending a two-run home run soaring out to right-center and over the GEICO wall.
"I thought I made a good pitch," Stammen told reporters. "Threw it right where I wanted to. I mean, I may have thought it was a strike, but I'm not the umpire, so it doesn't matter."
The 1-2 fastball (no.4) he threw outside was close. A 2-2 fastball inside (no.6) was too:
"He made some really close pitches on Davis," Nats' skipper Matt Williams told reporters after the game. "Got to 3-2 and had to throw a strike and he took advantage of it."
Unfortunately for Stammen, it didn't end there.
Orioles' shortstop J.J. Hardy followed with a solo home run in the next at bat, making it 5-2. Nick Hundley singled for the fourth straight hit. Two outs later, Nick Markakis doubled to drive Hundley in, making it 6-2.
"The ball to Hardy, just a breaking ball and stayed up a little bit," Stammen said.
Stammen might have thought he threw strikes, MLB.com's Gameday had them real close. Williams said he looked at them too, but thought they missed.
"We looked at them, they're close, but they're off the plate," he said. "A couple inches a different way, maybe a different story, but he got to full and [Davis] put a good swing on it."
"It's going to happen to everybody," Strasburg said of Stammen's rough outing. "He's got a great head on his shoulders, so he's going to come in tomorrow and do his thing if he gets in and that's all you really can do."
"I made some good pitches with my fastball," Stammen said, "but my slider was just so bad that it didn't really matter what happened. But I felt confident, I felt like I put it behind me, but it just didn't work out."
Through 27 games this season, Stammen now has a 3.65 ERA and a 2.98 FIP, with eight walks (1.62 BB/9) and 36 Ks (7.31 K/9) in 44 ⅓ IP over which he's held opposing hitters to a .238/.277/.363 line.