Lack of run support costs Nats in defeat

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There have been nights this season when John Lannan’s stuff has been good enough to render the Washington Nationals’ lack of runs moot, and there have been the occasional hitches in his development, the noticeable spikes in the curve where he has been hit hard enough that anything short of a breakout performance wouldn’t have been enough to salvage a win.

Last night was neither of those. The 23-year-old made some mistakes but not ones that precluded the Nationals from beating the Milwaukee Brewers. Washington didn’t need a deluge of offense to do it, either, but it needed more than the few drips it got from a lineup still trying to find its consistency.

Washington’s offense came from some unlikely sources but not enough to mute a few mistakes from Lannan. The end result was a 5-2 victory by the Brewers, evening the four-game series after two games.

“We had our chances,” third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. “Anytime our pitchers throw like that, we always want to score runs and give them some support.”

Lannan lasted just five innings, giving up three runs on five hits. His fastball command, and his control in general, was nowhere near as sharp as it was when he threw 71 of his 105 pitches for strikes in a 2-1 win over the Orioles on May 18.

The dip in accuracy cost him on several occasions, like when he left a 2-1 curveball in the strike zone that Corey Hart deposited in the Brewers‘ bullpen for a two-run homer in the fourth inning. In the fifth, he gave up a leadoff single to Bill Hall, who reached second on a Seth McClung sacrifice bunt.

Then, Lannan was called for a balk after he halted his delivery to Jason Kendall, moving Hall to third.

Hall scored on a Rickie Weeks’ sacrifice fly that gave the Brewers their third run.

“I wasn’t really commanding [the fastball] on the outside part of the plate, had a tough time going inside,” Lannan said. “I did have my changeup today, which helped a little bit, but the fastball wasn’t really there for me.”

Washington scored both of its runs in the fifth inning. Lastings Milledge joined Wily Mo Pena in becoming the second Nationals player in as many nights to end a 45-game home run drought when he put a hanging slider from Seth McClung that brought Washington within two into the Milwaukee bullpen. The Nationals‘ other run in the fifth inning also came from a pair of unlikely contributors —struggling Elijah Dukes and increasingly idle Wil Nieves, who followed Dukes’ single with a double that cut the Brewers‘ lead to one.

But Nieves was stranded on third, as were two other runners.

Instead, the chances came and went in frustrating fashion: Zimmerman slammed his helmet after grounding a Guillermo Mota slider to second to end the eighth inning. Aaron Boone stood at home plate with a bewildered look on his face as umpire Paul Emmel called a game-ending strike three on Salomon Torres’ curveball that missed its intended location by a foot.

“That’s why the balk and that mistake [against Hart] comes up,” Acta said. “The way we’re swinging the bat, it puts a little bit of pressure on these guys. You’ve got to try to shut down the opposition to as low a score as you can.”

SEEN AND HEARD AT NATIONALS PARK

It might be the long weekend, or it might be the fact that school’s almost out, but the kids are arriving in droves in the Nationals‘ dugout.

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