Lannan Tosses Gem But Nats Lose in 14

Posted by Dave Nichols | Friday, April 18, 2008 | , | 0 comments »

Queens, New York--Washington Nationals starting pitcher John Lannan recorded a personal record eleven strikeouts--against no walks--and Nick Johnson hit a two-run home run early. But reliever Joel Hanrahan, the Nats' seventh pitcher of the night, lost his control and threw one away in the bottom of the 14th allowing the Mets to eek out a 3-2 win.

Mets second baseman Damien Easley led off the 14th with a single to left. With one out, Easley took second on a wild pitch. Catcher Wil Nieves made a good play on the bouncer, but the throw to second was a little low and Cristian Guzman couldn't handle it. Hanrahan then threw wildly on a pick-off move to second, moving Easley up to third. Consecutive intentional walks brought up the pitcher's spot, occupied by Jorge Sosa, who walked his previous at bat. Mets Manager Willie Randolph then called on his last pinch-hitter, former National Brian Schneider, but Schneider never had to take a swing. Hanrahan's first offering was another wild pitch that went back to the screen, allowing Easley to score...easily.

"I'm proud of my guys," said Manny Acta in the post-game press conference, "But we found a way to lose."

Hanrahan (0-1) took the loss, pitching two and one-third innings allowing only one hit, but walking four with two wild pitches. Jorge Sosa (2-1) pitched two scoreless for the victory.

The Nats held a tenuous 2-1 lead going into the eighth, but Ronnie Belliard booted a routine grounder off the bat of Ryan Church. Relievers Saul Rivera, Luis Ayala and, inexplicably, Jon Rauch could not bail Belliard out. Carlos Delgado, who has looked terrible the entire series, fisted a 2-2 fastball from Rauch safely into right field to tie the game at two. Left-handed reliever Ray King was up and ready in the bullpen, but Manager Manny Acta made the call for his de facto closer instead of the portly lefty to face the left-handed swinging Delgado, who had been hitless for the series and zero for his last eleven at bats.

Asked about Belliard's miscue, Acta replied, "If you're gonna win 2-1 against the Mets, you gotta play perfect ball, and we didn't."

The Mets had a great opportunity in the bottom of the 12th, as Easley topped a slow roller past Ryan Zimmerman--guarding the line in the late innings--to lead off the inning. Jose Reyes laid a sacrifice bunt just past King, who butchered the play allowing Reyes to be safe and put runners at first and second. With Ryan Church attempting a sacrifice, King then threw to third on a nice play to force Easley. Manager Manny Acta then went back to his bullpen and summoned Hanrahan to face perennial all-star David Wright. Hanrahan needed only two pitches to get Wright to bounce into a rally-killing 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.

Lannan, a native of nearby Long Beach, NY, threw an absolute gem before his parents, family members and friends. Appearing for the first time as professional in the ballpark he dreamed of playing in as a child, Lannan gave up only three hits and one earned run in six masterful innings. He allowed a game leading off single to Jose Reyes, followed by a run-scoring "double" to Ryan Church. Left fielder Wily Mo Pena ranged to his left to track the ball down, but it popped out of his mitt while he was on the run, and the official scorer gave the benefit of the doubt to Church. Lannan then retired the next sixteen batters before Reyes got to him again with another single in the sixth. After a nine-pitch at bat, Lannan was able to retire Nats-killer David Wright on a fielder's choice, and his evening of work was finished.

Lannan was succinct in his self-evaluation after the game, "I was able to get my slider over...and my curve ball was working as well."

The Nationals managed only six hits in 14 innings. Ryan Zimmerman went two-for-six and Johnson had the homer, his second of the year. The Nats struck out 13 times in the game and left ten runners on base. The Mets hitters struck out 17 times and stranded 19 runners, but eventually got the one that counted.

The Nationals travel to Miami to play the Marlins in a three-game series starting Friday night at 7:10 pm. Tim Redding (2-1) faces Andrew Miller (0-2) in game one of the set.

NATS NOTES: Ryan Zimmerman, Nick Johnson and Austin Kearns were a combined 6-36 in the three game series.

Chad Cordero, who before the game declared himself health despite only hitting the mid-seventies on the radar gun in Wednesday's game, was the only reliever not used in the game.

Lannan Tosses Gem But Nats Lose In 14 also posted at DC Sports Box