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A gut-check win

Jun 1, 2013, 5:19 AM EDT

USA Today Sports Images
Craig Stammen retired all 12 batters he faced to earn the win.

ATLANTA — Already missing their best young player, their veteran leader, their top catcher and one member of their rotation, the Nationals took the field Friday night at Turner Field understanding how much was, and is, at stake this weekend against a Braves club that entered play with a 5 1/2-game lead on them in the NL East.

And then Stephen Strasburg departed after only two innings with a strained right oblique muscle, and suddenly a Nationals club that had been furiously trying to tread water for two months now looked on the verge of sinking below sea level.

The best ballclubs, though, have to overcome adversity somewhere along the way, and what better place for the Nationals to start than right here and right now, their season on the brink of major calamity?

So it was that Craig Stammen produced an emergency relief appearance for the ages — 12 batters faced, 12 batters retired — and a struggling lineup manufactured three early runs and a maligned bullpen hung on for dear life over the final three innings to pull out a 3-2 victory that felt like something far more significant than a run-of-the-mill win on the final day of May.

“It was an outstanding effort, and a big win,” manager Davey Johnson said. “We needed it bad.”
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