Two rain delays didn’t disrupt John Lannan, who held the Braves to one run off five hits and a walk, and the Nationals’ offense supported him with four early runs as Washington picked up its first win of the 2011 season, 6-3 over the Braves.
Two quick but potent storms moved into the area, one that delayed the first pitch 36 minutes and another that produced strong winds and hail in the bottom of the fourth that forced the teams into a 55-minute delay.
Lannan, while not looking incredibly comfortable and laboring at times, had held the Braves to just one run in the third inning but wasn’t in line for the win when the teams ran for cover in the fourth. He came back out to pitch the fifth, showing no signs of rust with a 1-2-3 inning.
The Nationals became the last team in the major leagues to score their first run of 2011 when Michael Morse walked, moved to second on a wild pickoff throw by Braves’ pitcher Tommy Hanson, was sacrificed to third on a ground out by Rick Ankiel and scored on a fly out to center by Danny Espinosa.
But the offense was much more potent after that with a two-run home run from Rick Ankiel capping a three-run third inning for the Nationals. They tacked on one more in the seventh when Ryan Zimmerman tripled to leadoff the inning and Ankiel came through again, this time laying down a sacrifice squeeze bunt for the RBI.
Zimmerman picked up an RBI of his own, part of a 2-for-3 day (with a walk and getting hit on the shoulder by a pitch), with a single down the third base line in the eighth.
In the second spot, Jayson Werth was 3-for-4 on the day with two doubles, a single and a walk, and Wilson Ramos went 3-for-4 as well with three singles in his season debut behind the plate.
Drew Storen and Chad Gaudin surrendered solo home runs, Gaudin’s on the first pitch of his career in a Nationals’ uniform to Dan Uggla to leadoff the sixth and Storen’s to Alex Gonzalez in the eighth, and Sean Burnett went four outs for the save but it would be remiss not to mention the five crucial outs Tyler Clippard got for the Nationals.
Entering with two on in the sixth, Clippard struck out Brooks Conrad and got Martin Prado to fly out before pitching a scoreless seventh and holding the Nationals’ two-run lead.