- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 7, 2011

DENVER — It’s been 30 days since a line drive by Ty Wigginton struck John Lannan in the face. It had been only two since Colorado Rockies pitcher Juan Nicasio was carted off the field Friday night on a stretcher and later underwent neck surgery after Ian Desmond’s line drive hit him in the head.

It was with those harrowing images in mind that Lannan led the Washington Nationals to a 3-2 victory and a split of the four-game series. The left-hander allowed one run (which scored after he left) in six innings, and stared down his demons at Coors Field.

“Seeing what happened to [Nicasio] you never want to see that,” Lannan said. “Just, looking back on my situation, I’m lucky that whatever happened to me was only that. Things could be much worse, obviously, so I was just trying not to think about it too much. I went after Wigginton with fastballs. You’ve just got to move on.”

Lannan did just that, relying on his four-seam fastball more than usual given the thin Colorado air and the fact that his sinker was getting hit a little more. He allowed just two runners to reach third base. It wasn’t until a leadoff walk in the seventh inning on a regretful 3-1 changeup Lannan called “just awful pitching,” that he was pulled.

His chance for the win, however, was relinquished shortly thereafter when Ryan Mattheus surrendered a single and Tyler Clippard failed to cover first base on a ground ball to Michael Morse. The error, charged to Morse, allowed the first run to come home.

Buoyed by a go-ahead RBI single in the eighth by Jayson Werth and Jonny Gomes‘ two-run homer in the second, the Nationals salvaged the victory. Drew Storen worked the ninth for his 29th save.

During the past 10 weeks, Lannan (8-7) has allowed more than three earned runs in a start on only one occasion. Since May 27, he is 6-2 with a 2.61 ERA.

“He was outstanding,” Nationals manager Davey Johnson said of Lannan. “A hot day out there. They scored a bunch of runs on us yesterday, and he shut them down completely. That was a great win, nice to win on the road and win a close ballgame.”

The Nationals were able to do so because of Werth being aggressive and hitting “a pitcher’s pitch,” as Johnson put it on a 1-2 slider, and Gomes building off his past success against Rockies starter Aaron Cook. Since Gomes arrived 11 days ago, there have been glimpses of what he can do. A triple here, an integral takeout slide at home plate there. With Laynce Nix providing power and a .274 average against right-handed pitchers, Gomes has found most of his playing time in a platoon, slotting in when a left-hander is on the mound.

But Sunday was different. The Nationals were facing a pitcher Gomes knows well. Gomes had taken Cook deep twice in the same game four years ago, and he was 5-for-11 with three extra-base hits and four RBI against him entering Sunday’s game. One swing in the second inning, and Gomes made Cook the pitcher off whom he’s hit more home runs than anyone else in the majors. In the process, he ingrained himself in the Nationals‘ clubhouse a little more.

“There’s 30 teams, but there’s really one way to win: score more runs,” Gomes said. “Every team is different. There’s teams that sit for the three-run homer, there’s teams that are fast and play the hit-and-run and bunt game. [I’m just trying to] get acclimated to the guys who hit in front of me, the guys who hit behind me and just trying to get on the same page. Since the day I walked in, these guys grabbed me with open arms.”