NEW YORK (AP) — Craig Stammen had two feats to smile about.
Exiled to the minor leagues for most of the season, he got his first win and hit in more than a year, scoring the go-ahead run on Ryan Zimmerman’s seventh-inning single Tuesday night to lead the Washington Nationals over the New York Mets 3-2.
So which accomplishment was he more proud of?
“Mmmmmm,” he said, flashing a wide smile as he thought it over. “The win, even though I like hitting, That’s my first win in a long time.”
Stammen (1-1) entered in the sixth with two on, and got three straight outs to escape the trouble. After a leadoff walk in the seventh, he got the first out of the inning, and the Nationals held on to give him his first victory since Aug. 4 last year at Arizona.
Except for a brief callup from June 4-14, Stammen had been at Triple-A Syracuse this year until Washington brought him back Sept. 6. He was a starter for all but one game in the minors this year, going 10-7 with a 4.75 ERA in 25 appearances.
Could have been a letdown from 2010, when he was 4-4 with a 5.13 ERA for the Nationals in 19 starts and 16 relief outings.
“It’s still baseball,” he said. “The way I looked at it and handled it was: If you had told me five, 10 years ago when I was in high school or college, `When you’re 27, you’re going to be playing Triple-A baseball and you’re going to be doing it for a living,’ I think I would have took it in a heartbeat and not really complained about it.”
Stammen’s strong sixth caused manager Davey Johnson to let him come to the plate.
“He did such a good job, I said, `I want to see more of that,”‘ Johnson recalled. “Everybody said he could hit.”
Just 15 for 69 (.217) at the plate in his big league career coming in, Stammen singled off Dale Thayer (0-2) leading off seventh for his first hit since July 30 last year against Philadelphia’s Roy Oswalt.
Ian Desmond singled him to second with one out, Rick Ankiel advanced Stammen by grounding into a forceout against Tim Bydak, and Zimmerman lined a single to left off Bobby Parnell.
“I was more impressed with the base hit than anything,” Ankiel said.
And Stammen left a positive impression on the 68-year-old Johnson, who took over as manager in June.
“I know I’ve got some age on me, but I’ve got a pretty good memory when guys do well,” Johnson said.
Drew Storen, Washington’s seventh pitcher, pitched the ninth for his 36th save in 41 chances. The Mets put runners at the corners on two-out singles by Jose Reyes and Ruben Tejada before Lucas Duda struck out on three pitches.
New York took a 2-0 lead in the fifth on Duda’s RBI single. A second run scored when the ball skipped past Jayson Werth in right for an error. Werth started there because of a sore calf and Rick Ankiel moved to center. Ankiel made a key play when he threw to the plate on the fly to throw out Josh Thole earlier in the inning.
Ankiel and Michael Morse tied it in the sixth with RBI doubles off Dillon Gee.
Washington’s Chien-Ming Wang allowed two runs and nine hits in five innings, his first start in New York since the Yankees cut him after the 2009 season.
Washington won its third straight and, at 69-77, matched its victory total from last year (69-93). The fourth-place Nationals pulled within a game of the Mets — Washington hasn’t finished as high as third since 2002, when it was the Montreal Expos and wound up in second place.
“If you can’t finish first or be the wild card, I’m not losing any sleep about trying to finish third,” Johnson said. “There’s a lot more that has to go on here.”
NOTES: New York (71-77) has lost four in a row and six of seven since pulling within a game of .500 and is closing in on a third straight losing season. The Mets were hurt when pitcher Gee, Nick Evans and Tejada all failed to get down bunts. … Ramos went 0 for 4. He entered 18 for 32 (.563) against the Mets this year. … Washington assigned RHP Garrett Mock outright to Syracuse of the International League. … Nationals OFs Roger Bernadina (cut on left hand) and Laynce Nix (strained right groin) could be back within a few days, according to manager Davey Johnson. OF Corey Brown may not return this season following surgery to remove an infection in a knee.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)