ATLANTA | Back from the minors, John Lannan is racking up quality starts and trimming points from his ERA.
Lannan pitched into the sixth inning and Nyjer Morgan had two hits in his return from the disabled list, helping the Washington Nationals beat the Atlanta Braves 6-2 on Thursday.
Lannan (5-5) gave up two runs and seven hits in 5 1-3 innings, improving to 3-0 with a 3.09 ERA in four starts since he returned from a six-week stay at Double-A Harrisburg. His ERA is down to 5.13 for the season after standing at 5.76 when he was demoted.
“I think I’m close,” the left-hander said when asked if he is close to returning to his top form. “That’s the main thing for me, going out with confidence and conviction. … I felt good. I was throwing fastballs on both sides of the plate.”
The NL East-leading Braves, who had won four straight, wrapped up a 5-2 homestand and will get a boost Friday when newly acquired first baseman Derrek Lee makes his first start for Atlanta in the opener of a weekend series in Chicago. Lee was acquired from the Cubs on Wednesday for three minor leaguers.
“We won both series; we have to say it was a real good homestand,” said Braves manager Bobby Cox, who was anxious to see Lee in an Atlanta uniform. “We can’t win every game. I keep thinking we can and … we’ve never done it yet.”
Eric Hinske played first base for Atlanta on Thursday and went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts.
Morgan also scored twice and Willie Harris added a two-run homer in the ninth for Washington, which jumped out to a 4-0 lead against Derek Lowe (11-11).
Harris’ drive off Kyle Farnsworth drove in Adam Kennedy, who led off with a walk. The homer by Harris, a native of Cairo, Ga., who played for Atlanta in 2007, landed in the Braves’ bullpen behind the right-field wall.
“I’m a Georgia guy,” Harris said. “It’s always good to win here against your old team. It makes you feel better. It may make your old team think maybe they should have kept you.”
Lowe pitched seven innings, yielding six hits, and was admittedly bothered by the warm weather. The temperature for the first pitch was 86 degrees and climbing.
“It’s a constant battle of the heat,” Lowe said. “I can’t remember pitching this many day games in my life in one year. That being said, everyone’s out there in the same scenario. I get hot during night games. These day games are killing me. So I’m happy I made it seven innings.”
Michael Morse, making only his fourth start of the season at first base, helped Washington get off to a fast start with a solo drive in the second inning for his ninth homer.
The shot ended a streak of 84 1-3 consecutive innings without a homer allowed by an Atlanta pitcher.
Morgan, who returned from a sore hip, singled to center in the third, stole second and scored on Ian Desmond’s single.
Morgan led off the fifth with a single to left. He advanced to second on a wild pitch and scored on Roger Bernadina’s double to right. Ryan Zimmerman drove in Bernadina with a single to left to push the lead to 4-0.
Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said he will give Bernadina, a rookie, a look in left field. Josh Willingham was placed on the 15-day disabled list and will have surgery next week to repair a medial meniscus tear in his left knee. Riggleman said it is unlikely Willingham will return this season.
The Braves scored two runs off Lannan in the sixth. Omar Infante and Jason Heyward reached on singles and scored on Matt Diaz’s double to the right-field corner.
Catcher Wilson Ramos was 0 for 4 in his first start for the Nationals since he was acquired in the July 30 trade that sent closer Matt Capps to Minnesota.
NOTES: The series attracted the two smallest crowds of the season at Turner Field. Thursday’s total of 15,593 set a new season low, following 16,911 on Tuesday. … Braves LHP Eric O’Flaherty (mononucleosis) will come off the 15-day disabled list and be in the bullpen for Friday’s game at Chicago. Rookie LHP Mike Dunn was told he’ll be optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett. Dunn struck out two batters and issued a walk in the eighth. … The Braves are sending INF Brandon Hicks to Gwinnett to clear a spot for Lee. Hicks was recalled from Gwinnett on Wednesday when first baseman Troy Glaus was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a sore left knee.