Nationals 5, Pirates 4: Stammen Stops Streak

Well, not by himself, and he didn't even get the win, but the Bucs couldn't do anything against him through six. This is not, I suspect, a coincidence. Upon seeing that the Nationals were starting someone named "Craig Stammen" for this game, I immediately figured he actually came from deep in the basement of MLB's offices, where Bud Selig's evil henchmen create android players like "Adam Rosales" who've accomplished nothing but still manage to give the Pirates fits before reporting back to Bud's Evil Robot Factory to be recycled into Sprite cans or pennies or whatever. So, hoping to jinx it, I predicted that Stammen would "run over the Pirates like the marching band in The Naked Gun."

Unfortunately, for a while, that's exactly what happened. Stammen mowed down the first twelve Pirates he faced. Ian Snell kept the Pirates in the game with a quality start, and the Bucs finally got to Stammen in the seventh, with an epic two-run homer by Adam LaRoche and an RBI single by Andy LaRoche

Then John Russell called in Tom Gorzelanny, who started this season in the minors for a reason and isn't even really a reliever, to pitch the seventh. That worked decently, so Russell sent him out again in the eighth, and Gorzelanny allowed four straight singles to give the Nats back the lead. Two of the four guys who had hits off Gorzelanny were lefties and another one was a switch-hitter, but still--there just has to be a way to keep a pitcher like Gorzelanny out of one-run games, or at least prevent him from allowing four hits in a row.

Then in the top of the ninth, Brandon Moss singled with one out, and Russell brought in Ramon "The 1800s, Man" Vazquez to pinch hit for Andy LaRoche. Even before Vazquez struck out, I could only ask, "Vazquez, really? Why?" Needless to say, Moss didn't score, and the Bucs didn't win.

UPDATE: I think Pat's anger about the LaRoche/Vazquez thing is a little over the top, but probably only a little, and I should have conveyed my annoyance with Russell more strongly. Not only is LaRoche a better hitter than Vazquez, he's also at least potentially an important part of the future of the team. I suspect LaRoche is a pretty fragile guy, and while I don't know what makes him tick and I usually loathe armchair pseudo-psychoanalysis of players by fans who've never met them, it's hard for me to understand how it could help LaRoche's confidence to sit him because you'd rather have your utility infielder hit with the game on the line. And at some level, the Pirates are making their bed with guys like LaRoche, and they have to sleep in it. If the Bucs want LaRoche to play like a good major leaguer, they might start by treating him like one. A single pinch-hit at bat is no big deal, but it's counterproductive both in the short term and in the long term to trust a mediocre vet like Vazquez over a promising and capable youngster like LaRoche.

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