The way the Nationals had been playing the last eight games, it seemed like they were due for one where nothing went right. That came on Tuesday night — a call went against them, their offense faltered against Atlanta starter Tommy Hanson and staff ace John Lannan had one of his worst nights of the year.
Lannan went just 4 2/3 innings in the 8-1 loss to the Braves, walking four and giving up five earned runs. Just 44 of his 81 pitches were strikes, a product of a wild sinker Lannan could never tame. Without diving too much into the mechanical jargon, Lannan generates sink on his fastball by keeping his hand on top of the ball. He was slipping off the top tonight, which robbed the pitch of its downward movement.
The night was unlike much of what we’ve seen from Lannan lately, and he sounded confident afterward that he knew what to fix before his next outing on Sunday.
Not much else went right for the Nationals. Hanson held them to one run in 6 2/3 innings, hitting coach Rick Eckstein was ejected by third-base umpire Larry Vanover after Vanover called Nyjer Morgan out trying to steal third in the third inning. Vanover (the umpire who ruled against the Nats in those two controversial home-run replays in May) threw Eckstein out as soon as he emerged from the dugout, and interim manager Jim Riggleman had to restrain Eckstein, at one point getting in his face and telling him to calm down.
But had Morgan been safe — and had he scored on Cristian Guzman’s ensuing single — it probably wouldn’t have turned this one around. Hanson’s four-pitch arsenal was simply too strong.
“They just beat us. We didn’t play as well as we’ve played lately,” Riggleman said. “John didn’t have his best day. That’s a good ballclub over there. When you do that, they’re going to take advantage of it.”
We’re back tomorrow with the final game of this quick two-game series—Craig Stammen against Derek Lowe at 7:10 p.m.