Instant analysis: Nats 8, Phillies 4

Instant analysis: Nats 8, Phillies 4
September 27, 2012, 2:34 am
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Game in a nutshell: Desperate for a win in perhaps their biggest house of horrors, the Nationals turned to man who has known almost nothing but misery in Philadelphia in John Lannan. The left-hander responded with another solid outing, but more importantly benefited from some major early run support. Three Nationals homered off Kyle Kendrick in the game's first two innings, opening up a 5-0 lead in the process. The Phillies, though, kept chipping away, scoring twice off Lannan, then once off Ryan Mattheus, then once off the slumping Tyler Clippard to leave this a 5-4 game entering the ninth. Would this one require a tense finish? Nope, and for that the Nats can thank Jayson Werth. After getting the local fans riled up by pretending to throw a foul ball into the stands, he stepped to the plate and delivered a two-out, two-run single in the top of the ninth for some huge insurance runs. That made life easy for Drew Storen, who didn't even have to appear in a save situation. Good thing the Nationals won, too, because the Braves beat the Marlins again to improve to 9-2 over their last 11 games. So the lead in the NL East remains four games with seven to play, with the magic number now down to 4.

Hitting highlight: They all came early, and they came before you could blink. Bryce Harper, Ian Desmond and Kurt Suzuki all homered in a span of seven batters, all of them impressive. But let's spotlight Harper, because he's once again doing things few have ever done before at his age. With 20 homers, he's only four shy of Tony Conigliaro's teenage record. With 93 runs scored, he's only seven shy of Buddy Lewis' teenage record. And with his 17th stolen base, he's now the first teenager in big-league history in the 17-17 club. Three more steals and he'll join the 20-20 club.

Pitching highlight: He may not acknowledge it publicly, but Lannan knows all too well about his past struggles in this ballpark and against this team. So he certainly took the mound tonight knowing the pressure was on to deliver. And he responded in impressive fashion. Obviously it helped to be staked to a 5-0 lead, but Lannan opened his night by inducing three straight groundballs. He walked only one batter over his 5 13 innings. And though he was charged with two earned runs, both scored thanks in large part to defensive miscues. Above all else, Lannan did what the Nats needed him to do: Throw strikes, get deep enough into the game and give his team a chance to win. He's now made five big-league starts this season, and has a 4-0 record to show for it.

Key stat: The Nationals are one of only three NL teams with four 20-homer players this season. The others: the Brewers and Cardinals.

Up next: The series concludes at 7:05 p.m. Thursday, when Gio Gonzalez goes after his 21st win of the season against Phillies rookie right-hander Tyler Cloyd.