04/23/10 11:53 PM ET
Stammen tries to slow Dodgers minus Manny
By Spencer Fordin / MLB.com
The Nationals rode a two-homer game from Adam Dunn to win Friday's series opener, but they also triumphed despite some mistakes. Washington went five straight games without an error, and it had played only one game all season in which the club made more than one miscue. But the Nationals found a way to overcome three errors Friday night.
The Dodgers, meanwhile, went into Friday night's game with the highest batting average (.311) in the Major Leagues, and they also boasted the top totals in runs (98) and hits (171). Los Angeles, working through a nine-game road trip, had to shuffle its batting order after learning that slugger Manny Ramirez would go to the disabled list with a strained right calf.
Los Angeles still has a deep and well-rounded supporting cast, though, and will hand the ball to southpaw Clayton Kershaw on Saturday. Last year, Kershaw held opponents to a .200 batting average and a .282 slugging mark. Washington will counter with Craig Stammen, who has sought advice from veteran teammate Livan Hernandez on how to thrive in the Majors.
"I needed all the extra tips that I could get," Stammen said. "I talk to him a lot. He helped me realize a few things and gave me a few tips here and there. Livo is very relaxed and calm. Sometimes it's better to be calm than intense and fired up on the mound."
Dodgers: LA dealing without Manny
Few teams can afford the loss of a player like Ramirez, but the Dodgers might be best suited to try. Los Angeles is the only team in the Major Leagues to have six guys hitting .300 or better, and has an outside chance of breaking the franchise record (146) for runs in April. And it hasn't been Ramirez leading the charge; instead, it's been Matt Kemp.
Kemp went 0-for-4 on Friday to snap an 11-game hitting streak, but went into that game leading the Major Leagues in runs (20), and tied for the top spot in both home runs (seven) and RBIs (20). Kemp also started fast last year, batting .325 with 16 RBIs in the opening month. The youngster went on to hit .290 or better in all but one of the season's remaining months.
Nationals: Stammen learning from veteran Hernandez
Washington has won three of its past five games and six of nine, and Stammen is hoping to continue the momentum. Stammen, with an 8.16 ERA after three starts, said Hernandez has been gracious about helping him. He also said Hernandez used a recent golf game to impart some wisdom.
"He said how I play golf is how I should pitch -- just nice and easy and let it fly right down the middle," Stammen said. "If I overswing, I don't hit the ball straight. It's just like pitching. He put it in my head a little bit. Trying too hard can get you in as much trouble."
And for Stammen, a former fourth-round draftee, that's the kind of wisdom he couldn't get elsewhere. The 26-year-old knows Hernandez has a world of experience, and he's hoping to pick up some by any means possible.
"I got here by pitching. I'm watching Livo a little bit and doing what he does," said Stammen. "When you are young, you learn real quick that 100 percent isn't always the best. I felt so good that I was letting it fly. That felt good, but I wasn't getting any results. Watching Livo do it, like at 85 percent, puts you back a little bit. You try to emulate that as best as you can."
Washington only had six hits on Friday night, but has notched double-digit hit totals in six of the past 10 games. The Nationals are batting .299 (98-for-328) with 24 doubles and eight home runs over that span. ... Washington catcher Ivan Rodriguez broke a streak of six consecutive multihit games on Friday, an achievement he hadn't managed since 1999. ... The Nationals' opponents have attempted just one steal in 13 starts for Rodriguez this season. ... Rodriguez left Friday's game after six innings with back tightness. ... Utility-man Mike Morse reported to Washington's Spring Training facility in Viera, Fla., for his injury rehab.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.