This morning in the Nationals’ clubhouse, multiple Nationals pitchers were still talking about Craig Stammen’s performance yesterday, two innings that earned him the win. It was not always smooth – Stammen survived a flyball to the warning track in the 10th and he stranded the tying run on second base in the 11th.
But his stuff stood out. In four innings, Stammen struck out four Reds and induced 10 – 10! – swinging strikes. To put that in perspective, no Nationals starter induced more than nine swing-and-misses in any full start yet, let alone two innings.
Last year, his first pitching out of the bullpen full time, Stammen would occasionally tear off games when his stuff had hitters flailing. But he never got 10 swing-and-misses, like he did yesterday.
His sinker was the key. Stammen got a ton of movement on the pitch, making it behave almost like a slider from a left-handed pitcher. He said the sinker he struck out Chris Heisey with in the 11th may have been the best sinker he’s ever thrown. Look how far inside Stammen got that sinker while still inducing a swing from Heisey:
Stammen also though he had Joey Votto struck out in the 11th before Votto’s walk sparked a last-gasp rally. From Pitch F/X date, it looks like Votto actually had a good take: