Lannan gets the better of Haren
PHILADELPHIA — John Lannan is one of the most mild-mannered ballplayers you'll ever meet, rarely showing much emotion when he stands on the mound. His pitching performances, though, often elicit some strong reactions, usually at either extreme of the emotional spectrum.
Just ask Ian Desmond for his thoughts after the Nationals' 3-2 loss to the Phillies, with Lannan tossing eight scoreless innings to earn the victory against his former club.
"I feel like I just beat my head against the door for three hours," said Desmond, who struck out three times. "Or however long that took."
For the record, the game lasted only 2 hours, 40 minutes. It only felt longer for the Nationals, who arrived in Philadelphia flying high after busting out of their season-long offensive slump over the previous week, only to be completely dismantled by their old pal-turned-adversary.
Lannan carved up the Nationals in a performance that rivaled any other in his career. In parts of six seasons in D.C., the left-hander made 134 starts. Only once did he toss eight or more innings of scoreless baseball.
Now, cut loose by the Nationals over the winter, he did it in only his eighth start with the Phillies, earning the win against the franchise that drafted him, three weeks after missing out on his first opportunity to do just that.
"The first time back, I guess there was a little bit more [motivation to beat them]," he said. "Just because of my first start back, and it was my first time facing the Nationals. I remembered that feeling. This time, I just told myself it's just any other start. I just had to go out there and worry about doing my job. It doesn't matter who you face, really. You just have to go out and pitch."
Lannan did that to near-perfection, scattering four singles and two walks over his eight innings, only once putting himself in a serious jam. He wriggled his way out of that fourth-inning scenario when Bryce Harper was caught stealing second and Adam LaRoche grounded out to strand two runners on base.
It was the kind of easy-going, efficient performance the Nationals received every so often from Lannan over the years, but not with enough consistency to convince general manager Mike Rizzo he was worth bringing back for the $5 million or so he would have cost via arbitration.
"You know him so well, you kind of know how he goes after hitters," manager Davey Johnson said. "Some of the guys, we should've had a little better approach, I thought. But I just tip my hat to him. He just pitched a heck of a ballgame."
That Lannan did this against Dan Haren, who essentially replaced him in the Nationals' rotation, added another level of satisfaction/frustration to the proceedings.
Making his first start after a two-week stint on the DL with shoulder inflammation, Haren put himself in all kinds of trouble in the first inning when he allowed five of the first eight batters he faced to reach base. The last of them, Darin Ruf, drew a bases-loaded walk, only the third issued by Haren in his career.
But what at that point looked like a lost cause was salvaged by Haren, who escaped allowing two runs in the first and then put up four straight zeroes to at least keep his team in the game.
"I put us in the hole early," he said. "A little bit out of sorts. Walk a couple guys. The ball hit back off me [a comebacker via Domonic Brown]. Just kind of a circus. And then after that, it was alright."
Haren (now 4-10 with a 6.00 ERA) still labored through most of his evening, though he did manage to retire eight straight at one point. He departed after only five innings, having thrown 95 pitches, and tried to find the positives from his first start in two weeks.
"Considering how the first inning went, and being able to pitch out of that jam, obviously putting up a few zeroes after that, you give your team a chance," he said. "But overall I feel good. Excited to take the ball in five days. My stuff feels good and where it needs to be."
The Nationals nearly got Haren off the hook with a stirring rally against Jonathan Papelbon, who blew two saves against Washington in their previous encounter last month. Handed a 3-0 lead in the ninth, the Phillies closer immediately surrendered a single to Harper and a double to Ryan Zimmerman, bringing the tying run to the plate in the form of ex-Phillie Jayson Werth.
Werth caused the hearts of the 33,061 in attendance to flutter for a moment when he tagged a pitch from Papelbon deep to center, but Ben Revere tracked it down at the base of the wall. A couple more feet and it would've been a game-tying homer. Instead it was a mere sacrifice fly.
"He hit the heck out of it," Johnson said. "I was hoping. Made a good comeback. We hung in there."
LaRoche followed with his own sacrifice fly, scoring Zimmerman and cutting the deficit to 3-2. But pinch-hitter Chad Tracy skied a flyball to shallow center, ending the game and ending the Nationals' four-game winning streak in frustrating fashion.
"We got some hits, made it close and got he tying run to the plate," Zimmerman said. "That's all you can really ask for in that situation."