With family in the stands, Lannan stymies Yankees

NEW YORK | The way Ed Lannan, living in Long Island, came upon a series of playoff tickets that gave him memories of some of the greatest New York Yankees teams was through a friend at work and a little luck.

The convoluted path went like this: Lannan worked with a Yankees season-ticket holder who lived in Tampa, Fla., and had season tickets to spring training from 1996 to 2001. Back then, that gave him priority to buy seats for playoff games, and he would fly up only for the World Series games and one or two in the playoffs’ first two rounds.

“We were at all those games,” Ed Lannan said with a gleam in his eye and a boyish smirk. “In particular, [Game 2 against the Indians in the 1998 AL Championship Series], where [Chuck Knoblauch was] arguing the call and the ball’s on the ground. … When we saw [Derek] Jeter make that great backhand jump throw, the first time we saw that, we were off the third-base line, maybe 40 feet behind him. It was incredible watching these games with John.”

Ed’s son John grew up pitching at Chaminade High School and Siena College and got a tryout with the Yankees at old Yankee Stadium before the 2005 draft.

It was the only time John Lannan ever pitched in that park. His first appearance in its replacement won’t go down in the annals of all those games he watched as a kid, but it will go down as a 3-2 victory for the Washington Nationals after his sublime outing in which the 24-year-old went 8 1/3 innings and beat the Yankees on Wednesday night.

“I was trying to stay as cool as possible,” Lannan said. “To be on the mound during that was unbelievable no matter what happened. I was just grateful for the opportunity I got to pitch here.”

The ninth inning was Lannan’s worst, when the normally unflappable pitcher’s adrenaline got the best of him and he left a fastball up for Johnny Damon, who hit a homer and cut the Nationals’ lead to one. But Mike MacDougal got his first save since 2006 with a game-ending double play.

Lannan’s formula is never complicated or fancy; he simply pounds his two-seam fastball into the lower half of the strike zone, takes the ball back and fires the same thing again. It has made him a winner in a number of big moments disproportionate to his short career - keeping Barry Bonds stuck on 755 homers, besting John Smoltz on the night he recorded his 3,000th strikeout - and for most of the night Wednesday, it helped him stand firm against a menacing Yankees lineup, albeit one missing Jeter because of a stiff ankle.

“The night belongs to him,” manager Manny Acta said. “That lineup that he just beat tonight, it was fantastic. It really shows that still the best pitch in the game is a fastball, well-located, especially a first-pitch strike. He threw 80 fastballs tonight and just did a fantastic job.”

He took a no-hitter into the fifth inning. By that point, the Nationals already had a 3-0 lead thanks to an Adam Dunn homer off struggling Yankees starter Chien-Ming Wang and a dubious call the likes of which always seem to go against them.

With Willie Harris on second and one out in the fifth, Cristian Guzman hit a grounder to Alex Rodriguez at third. First-base umpire Larry Vanover called Guzman safe; replays showed Rodriguez’s throw reached Mark Teixeira a half-step ahead of Guzman.

That made Guzman the eventual game-winning run when Nick Johnson, the next batter, tripled to center.

Lannan’s first of two blemishes came in the fifth inning, when Robinson Cano broke up his no-hitter by homering over the right-field wall.

The second one came on Johnny Damon’s leadoff homer in the ninth. Afterward, Lannan admitted how badly he wanted to secure the second complete game of his career in front of family and friends and that it got the best of him.

MacDougal battled Cano through an epic at-bat, throwing nine fastballs, all of them on the outer half of the plate. Cano fouled off six, took two and grounded one to Guzman that started a game-ending double play for MacDougal’s first save since 2006.

Lannan hurdled the railing over the Nationals’ dugout and clapped his hands three times, with yet another big win on his short resume.

“I had a feeling he would do something special tonight,” Ed Lannan said.

His only regret afterward?

“Jeter wasn’t in the lineup.”

And back came that smirk.

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