- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 2, 2007

For five days, John Lannan heard it. From his teammates, from the media, from everyone he encountered.

“Hey, kid: Try not to get ejected from your next start.”

After making headlines around the country for his bizarre big league debut, Lannan couldn’t avoid the onslaught of attention.

“I really tried not to think about it,” the Washington Nationals rookie left-hander said. “But I went home, and everybody was asking about it. Everybody was talking about it.”

So Lannan sat through perhaps the longest five days of his life, itching to get back on the mound last night and make headlines for the right reasons — like a standout pitching performance to lead the Nationals to an easy, 7-2 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

That, as far as Lannan was concerned, was more like it.

No plunking. No broken hands. No controversial ejections. Just a well-pitched 52/3 innings before an appreciative RFK Stadium crowd of 28,944 that saw the home team’s offense shine again against Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo to put its 22-year-old starting pitcher in line to earn his first win.

“I’ll never forget these first two starts,” he said.

Lannan (1-0) certainly was the star last night, rewarded for his performance with a game ball and lineup card that will go to his parents’ house on Long Island. But give an assist to the Nationals‘ lineup, which produced seven runs in two innings off Arroyo and gave Lannan a huge cushion to work with.

Washington’s success against Arroyo was nothing new. The Nationals pounded him for six runs in Cincinnati on May 21 in what was the shortest start of his career at the time.

Arroyo (4-12) set a new mark for futility last night, failing to record the final out of the second inning before getting yanked by interim Reds manager Pete Mackanin. The right-hander, who tossed 16 scoreless innings against the Nationals a year ago, allowed 13 runs in 32/3 innings against the same squad this season.

“His location maybe is a little off, and when we do get a mistake, we’re taking advantage,” said Austin Kearns, Arroyo’s former teammate in Cincinnati who has led Washington’s charge against him this season. “Guys aren’t fouling it off or popping it up. We’re just having some good swings.”

As was the case earlier this year at Great American Ball Park, Kearns was influential in battering around Arroyo last night, doubling in a run in the first, then belting a two-run shot to left an inning later for his eighth homer of the season (and second off Arroyo).

That’s all the offense the Nationals needed, with Lannan cruising to his first major league win.

Lannan, who began the season at Class A Potomac and climbed all the way up Washington’s farm system to reach the majors, was thrust into a circus in his first big league game. After hitting sluggers Chase Utley and Ryan Howard on consecutive pitches in the fifth inning, he was ejected by plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt despite no evidence he had done it on purpose.

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