"That was a pretty big mental mistake. I have to be able to shake that pitch off and throw what I wanted to throw." --Craig Stammen, June 24, 2009.

THE RESULT: David Ortiz, as he's done so many times in the past, hit a three-run home run to lead the Boston Red Sox over the Washington Nationals, 6-4, in the second of a three-game series, before 41,530. It was the second straight night for a record crowd at Nationals Park.

With two men on and two outs, Nationals starter Craig Stammen pounded Ortiz with fastballs to get to a 3-2 count. "Big Papi" was late on both fastballs he took cuts at. But on the deciding pitch, Stammen left an 83 MPH change-up over the heart of the plate, and Ortiz did not miss it, clobbering the pitch into the service tunnel in straight-away center field.

Catcher Wil Nieves set up low and away against the big slugger, even motioning with his glove with the palm down for Stammen (L, 1-3, 5.49) to keep the pitch down, but the 25-year old rookie could not keep the change-up down, and it turned into batting practice for Ortiz, who was mired in a prolonged slump at the start of the season.

"The whole game was based on that 3-2 pitch to David," manager Manny Acta said. "I think next time he'll know he has to go to his best pitch in that situation."

"I had good stuff, but I made a couple of mistakes with it," Stammen said. "It's very frustrating. They capitalized on the mistakes. I'm not really worried what team I'm facing. I've got to throw my pitches with what I've got today."

After Jason Varitek homered in the top of the sixth to make the score 6-1, the Nats tried to claw their way back into it. Josh Willingham hit a two-run single in the bottom of the inning, and Cristian Guzman scored Josh Bard with a triple in the seventh.

But Ryan Zimmerman's long fly ball to left center died at the wall, where Jacoby Ellsbury hauled in the Nats best chance to tie the game up in the late innings.

THE TAKEAWAY: You live and learn. Stammen and Nieves had to be on the same page on that pitch, and whether it was the pitch -- or location -- the decision cost the Nats the game. Stammen's a very bright guy, and you can be sure that he will learn from the experience.

The good part of the bullpen pitched very well last night. Ron Villone, Julian Tavarez, Joe Beimel and Mike MacDougal were all very strong, and the four combined for no hits, just one walk and three Ks in three and one-third innings. Shame the Nats bats couldn't make any magic in the eighth and ninth innings.

THE GOOD: Cristian Guzman. He went 2-for-4 with a triple and an RBI. He now has had a multi-hit game in seven consecutive games, lifting his average to .337, second in the National League.

THE BAD: Nick Johnson. He went 0-for-4 with four runners left on base. Not a good night in the clean-up spot for Nick.

THE UGLY: Left with only Ronnie Belliard to pinch-hit in the eighth inning, Acta sent him up to face Hideki Okajima. Belliard fouled off five consecutive pitches before striking out with men on first and second.

NEXT GAME: Tonight at 7:05 p.m. for the finale with the Sox. John Smoltz makes his Boston debut after recovering from shoulder surgery. Jordan Zimmermann (2-3, 5.03) will face the future Hall-of-Famer.

NOTES: A broken bat from Elijah Dukes hit Red Sox shortstop Nick Green as the bat and ball arrived at the same time at the fielder. Green was not injured, but the potential for devastating injury was certainly present.

Adam Dunn was not in the starting lineup for the first time all season. He tweaked his wrist in a swing Tuesday night, and even had an MRI early Wednesday, but was cleared. He made a pinch-hitting appearance, and walked in front of Belliard's strikeout.

Boston hitting coach Dave Magadan was ejected by home plate umpire Bob Davidson in the top of the fourth inning after disputing a low-and-away strike to Kevin Youkilis. It was Magadan's fifth career ejection, his second as a coach.

LHP Scott Olsen pitched six innings, allowing eight hits, two runs, one walk and five strikeouts in a rehab assignment for Triple-A Syracuse against Scranton-Wilkes Barre.

Washington recalled RHP Tyler Clippard from Syracuse and designated RHP Kip Wells for assignment. Clippard was tremendously effective in relief this season, going 4-1 with one save and a .92 ERA this season. He had worked 19 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run at the time of his promotion. Wells was 0-2 with two saves and a 6.49 ERA in 23 relief appearances with the Nationals this season.


Photos 2009 © Cheryl Nichols. All Rights Reserved.

3 comments

  1. Deacon Drake // June 25, 2009 at 1:22 PM  

    Everybody is going to blame Stammen for that pitch, but the change never should have been called. He's young and can really only trust his fastball right now (his + pitch http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=7274&position=P#pitchtype). Honestly, Wil should have known there was a better than 50% chance he was going to miss the spot in a high leverage situation.

  2. Dave Nichols // June 25, 2009 at 2:53 PM  

    thanks for the comment Deacon. i think most people would have liked to have seen another fastball there, but if Stammen had hit his spot, the most Ortiz could have done with it was to bounce it somewhere. i think blame should be shared, and Stammen was a pro taking the responsibility for it.

  3. Anonymous // June 25, 2009 at 3:59 PM  

    "Adam Dunn was not in the starting lineup for the first time all season"

    Wrong. He also did not start the game in SF where Zim's 30-game streak ended. Don't you recall all the blog commenting idiots at the time blaming Zim's failure to get a hit on not having Dunn's protection behind him?