In 13 career starts entering today's game, John Lannan was 0-10 with a 6.44 ERA against the Philadelphia Phillies. With a little help from his friends in the bullpen -- and outfielder Laynce Nix -- Lannan was able to break through against the bullies of the N.L. East, beating the division-leading Phillies and Roy Oswalt 2-1, before 24,495 at hot and sunny Nationals Park.
The Nats took two out of three from the Phils, and now embark on an 11-game, three-city west coast road trip.
If Lannan gets the sentimental nod for finally beating his personal nemesis, then Nix is the hero. Not only did he connect for his ninth home run of the year in the third inning to secure the margin of victory, he made a game-saving catch in the top of the sixth, laying out fully to snare Domonic Brown's line drive headed toward the gap in left center.
With the bases loaded, had the ball gotten through three runs would have scored and we would be talking about a completely different game.
After the catch, Tyler Clippard threw two perfect innings in relief and Drew Storen earned his 10th save in 11 chances, punctuating the win by striking out Placido Polanco looking for the final out of the game. Polanco had some choice words for homeplate umpire Jerry Layne, but the 96-MPH heater had enough of the plate that Polanco simply couldn't afford to be looking at it.
Lannan went 5 1/3 innings in the hot, muggy sunshine. He gave up four hits and three walks, and had to contend with two extra base runners via errors. The only Phillies run of the day was unearned, as Alex Cora booted a routine ground ball to third, allowing Ryan Howard to lumber home from second base.
The Phillies got two on with one out in the sixth, chasing Lannan. Todd Coffey came on to retire Carlos Ruiz on a fly ball, but walked pinch-hitter Jimmy Rollins to load the bases. Manager Jim Riggleman brought in Doug Slaten, who has allowed 12 of 24 inherited runners to score this season. Domonic Brown jumped all over a 91-MPH fastball, but the line drive hung just enough to allow Nix to make a Superman dive to kill the threat.
Taking two in a row from Philadelphia has to be a confidence boost for a team that was reeling coming into the series as they get ready to set out their longest road trip of the season, one that could very well define what the rest of 2011 has in store for this team.
THE GOOD: Laynce Nix. Homer and game-saving catch? Yeah, buddy.
THE BAD: Ian Desmond went 0-for-3.
THE UGLY: Alex Cora and Jerry Hairston both booted routine ground balls at third base, with the Phils lone run coming off Cora's gaffe.
THE STATS: Six hits, three walks, six strikeouts. 1-for-5 with RISP, eight LOB, no GIDP. E: Cora (2), Hairston (7).
NEXT GAME: Thursday at 9:40 pm EDT at Arizona. Jordan Zimmermann (2-6, 3.88) takes on Zach Duke (1-0, 0.00).