The Washington Times - July 3, 2011, 02:29AM

Some leftover notes as the Nationals doubleheader Saturday comes to a close and they look for their sixth series victory in their last seven tries on Sunday afternoon…

– John Lannan’s superb season continued Saturday night when he tossed seven innings and allowed just three earned runs. Lannan took the no-decision in the Nationals 4-3 victory but he was much sharper this time than he was in his last start, in Anaheim. 


“Lannan was outstanding,” Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. “We didn’t give him much support. We didn’t give him much support in L.A. and the same way here but if he keeps pitching like that he’s going to win a lot of ballgames. 

Lannan was remarkably efficient Saturday, needing just 80 pitches to get through seven and throwing 58 of those pitches for strikes. Of the 17 outs Lannan got, 15 of them were on the ground and he was taking advantage of a youthful Pittsburgh team by getting them to swing early.

“I took notice that there were a lot of young guys in the lineup and they were going to be trying to prove something,” Lannan said. “They were aggressive, and I knew if I located my sinker, I’d get a lot of ground balls and that’s what happened.”

Lannan has a 3.50 ERA this season but he has a 1.92 mark in his last eight starts — a continued testament to Lannan’s renewed focus and dedication to his sinker. 

“I was just attacking guys with my fastball in and out,” Lannan said. “When I do that, I get a lot of groundball outs. I’ve just got to keep focusing on keeping that sinker away and keep them honest with that pitch inside.”

– Laynce Nix has been nursing a sore right Achilles for some time now and while he continues to manage that injury with rest whenever he can, Nix’s plight got a little worse Saturday afternoon in the opener of the doubleheader when he fouled a ball off his right shin providing what he described as a pretty gruesome bruise.

The foul was just part of an 0-for-3 day with two strikeouts at the plate. Nix didn’t think the foul ball would severely affect his ability to play.

– Speaking of injuries, Michael Morse, who fouled a ball off his left arm, did not come out of the game for pinch runner Brian Bixler for injury reasons — or at least not mainly injury reasons. Morse had a pretty good welt on his forearm immediately after getting hit by a 94 mph fastball in the eighth but it got him on base and allowed Brian Bixler to pinch run for him and, eventually, score the game-tying run on a double steal attempt.

Morse didn’t think the bruise would affect him much, insisting he was fine, but hadn’t gotten the results from the X-rays just yet. 

One other note about the double steal with Bixler taking third (and eventually home on an overthrow) and Rick Ankiel going to second, only to score the game-winner on Ivan Rodriguez’s single. It was the first stolen base attempt (or attempts, I suppose) of the Davey Johnson era. Johnson’s not much of a small ball manager — reminding everyone that while they won via groundouts and sacrifices and stolen bases on Saturday that it’s “not really my three-run home run style of play.”

Bixler’s biggest tool is clearly his speed so it’s nice to see the Nationals recognizing that and exploiting that to the best of their abilities.

– Jayson Werth is truly in an awful slump and it only got worse Saturday when he was booed loudly after his final at-bat, in which he flew out to left field. 

Werth has struck out in 15 of his last 35 at-bats and has struck out looking at a 41 percent rate. The league average is just 24 percent and the Nationals team average is 28 percent. 

After the game, Werth politely declined to comment to a group of reporters, walking out of the clubhouse with his . 224 season average in tow.

If he’s going to get out of it, though, he’ll most likely be doing so from the fifth spot in the Nationals lineup. Johnson flipped Danny Espinosa and Jayson Werth in the lineup for Game 2 Saturday night and said he expects to see Werth in the five-slot more often.

The two shared a conversation earlier Saturday and the crux of it was this: Werth feels like a No. 5 hitter but had been volunteering to hit first and second because of his high on-base percentage. Johnson awoke in the middle of the night Friday, he said, thinking about switching Espinosa and Werth in the team’s batting order.

Espinosa continued hitting, with a 2-for-3 night with a walk, to bring his average this season up to .243. If he’s left off the All-Star team because of that, he’ll still be a top candidate for Rookie of the Year.

– Roger Bernadina made a terrible baserunning mistake in the first game on Saturday, effectively ending the team’s rally inning when he was doubled off first base on a fly out to left field by Werth. Bernadina was rounding third base when the ball was caught. He had no time to get back to first and was tagged out easily.

Bernadina admitted later that he’d thought there were two outs — thus his overdone jaunt — and simply forgot there was only one.

– All-Star teams are announced on Sunday and the Nationals have several candidates who could make it. Be sure to check back here and on the Washington Times Sports homepage for the Nationals selection.