The Washington Times - March 10, 2012, 05:39PM

LAKELAND, Fla. — When he was on the mound Saturday, John Lannan didn’t look like he was all that pleased with his two-inning outing in the Nationals’ 5-5 tie with the Tigers. The box score would probably reflect the same feeling. In two innings, Lannan gave up two earned runs off four hits, one a home run, and one walk. He struck out four.

But shortly after he left the game, needing 56 pitches to get through two, Lannan reflected on the outing and was pleased with what he’d done.

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“If you want to compare it to last time out, I felt much better,” Lannan said, his first spring outing coming Monday against the New York Mets in which he allowed one run off three hits and one walk, along with one strikeout. 

“The line, you can’t look too much into it this early,” Lannan said. “You do want to put up zeroes. You do want to go four innings, 60 pitches, but if not, you’ve just got to kind of look at the positives… I had the best command I felt I’ve had today.”

For Lannan, the positives on Saturday were that he was commanding his fastball well and spotted an area of work: expanding the zone with two strikes. 

Lannan was hurt multiple times with two strikes on Saturday. In an at-bat with Brennan Boesch, Lannan had the Tigers’ right fielder down 1-2 but gave up an RBI-single to right field. Against catcher Alex Avila “I also had two strikes and I kind of left it on the inside part of the plate where he could go the other way with it.” The at-bat resulted in a leadoff single to left field. 

“I was spotting my fastball pretty good on both sides,” Lannan said, striking out Prince Fielder with a sinker and Austin Jackson with a fastball in. “If I was missing with my fastball I was not missing by much. It’s the two-strike stuff I need work on.” 

Lannan gave up two other hits on the day: A home run to Inge that both he and bench coach (but manager for this game) Randy Knorr agreed was just a pitch that was left up in the zone, and a single to left center by Delmon Young that looped over the head of shortstop Danny Espinosa and fell in front of Roger Bernadina in what appeared to be a miscommunication. He had thrown 30 pitches when the inning ended, extended by Young’s single. 

“I thought he was OK,” Knorr said. “I thought it would have been better if (we hadn’t) misplayed a ball in the outfield that fell. I thought that could have got him out of the inning, which might have carried him to three innings… But I thought he made some good pitches on those guys.”

He didn’t get any breaks with the lineup the Tigers were rolling out, either, which contained basically all of their opening day starters, save for left fielder Justin Henry, and will surely be one of the best offensive units in the league.

Still, overall the left-hander — who is in the precarious position of trying to fight for the Nationals’ fifth starter spot despite his track record in the major leagues — felt it was a good day.

“When I pitched against the Mets, I was still trying to get into a rhythm,” he said. “Today, I was in a better rhythm, but something else came up. Every time I go out there, it’s always something to work on. Pitch count or not. You take those pitches and you try to get the most out of them.” 

– The Nationals and Tigers played to a tie after the Nationals’ got home runs from Corey Brown and Andres Blanco to help power their offense. Brown also made a superb sliding catch in right field.

– The Nationals won the other side of their split-squad matchup, 8-2, against the New York Mets. The Nationals’ offense, led by Ryan Zimmerman and Wilson Ramos, tagged knuckleballer R.A. Dickey for five runs off eight hits in three innings of work. Zimmerman, 2-for-3, drove in two runs and scored once as well while Ramos, 2-for-4, also drove in two. Tyler Moore was 2-for-2 after coming in as a sub and Zimmerman, Ramos, Moore and Anthony Rendon all doubled in the game. 

— Adam LaRoche made his first start of the spring and was 1-for-2 with an RBI.

— Chien-Ming Wang made his first start in a regulation game (he pitched a simulated game on Monday) and made it through two innings. He allowed two earned runs off three hits and a walk and struck out two. The Nationals’ five pitchers who followed: Craig Stammen, Brad Lidge, Atahualpa Severino, Jeff Fulchino and Ryan Mattheus, held the Mets scoreless.