A night where everything lined up

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Covering the Nats, these are the kinds of nights you don’t see very often. In a 7-1 win, there’s not too much Washington could have done better.

John Lannan pitched his first complete game, with the benefit of a franchise record-tying five double plays (including one very weird one we’ll get to in a minute). The Nats hit three homers off John Maine, and were up 7-0 by the fifth inning.

“It’s unbelieveable how smart you can get in one night, when you get a pitching performance like that, a offense like that and a defense like that,” manager Manny Acta said. “John just was outstanding out there for us, and we caught (John) Maine on one of his off-nights.”

Lannan threw 96 pitches and got 19 ground ball outs. He’d been working with new pitching coach Steve McCatty on getting back to what makes Lannan effective when he’s going good—commanding his two-seam fastball. That was mostly what he threw tonight (again, when Lannan is rolling, he’s throwing about 70-75 percent fastballs), and its sinking action produced all those groundouts.

Now, for the weird moment of the evening…

No outs, Luis Castillo on first in the fourth inning. Emil Brown hits a sinking liner to right, Elijah Dukes slides on his back to make the catch — only first-base umpire Derryl Cousins says no catch. Thinking the ball is caught, Castillo retreats toward first. Thinking the ball hit the ground, Brown rounds first and heads for second, passing Castillo. Brown is therefore automatically out.

Dukes, meanwhile, sits up, overthrows Anderson Hernandez while sitting down (that, in and of itself, is impressive), and Nick Johnson breaks from first to interecept the throw, Derek Jeter-style, before flipping to Cristian Guzman, who tagged Castillo out at second. Score it a fielder’s choice and a 9-3-6 putout at second, or the weirdest double play you’ll ever see.

“I made the catch,” Dukes said. “That’s why I was trying to get it back in to Hernandez, but I ended up overthrowing him. But they ended up crossing over each other anyway, so it worked out for the best.”

“That double play in the fourth, that never happens for us,” Lannan said. “I don’t wish it on any team, but it’s cool to be on the other side, for once.”

Acta’s perspective on the play? “I guess Castillo turned around before the umpire made the call and probably thought Elijah caught the ball on the fly. We knew on the bench that Emil Brown was out because he passed the runner right away. We were just worried that our kids would throw to the right base and get the right guy, because Brown was out already, and we were able to get Castillo, too at second base. It was very unconventional.”

Just another night in NatsTown where everything goes right.

Series finale at 1:35 tomorrow—Livan Hernandez against Craig Stammen. Talk to you in the morning.

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