The best quote of the year on Washington Nationals' starter John Lannan in 2011 came from Atlanta Braves' third baseman and future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones, who told the Braves' broadcasters during an early August game that the Nats' left-hander gives his team fits. "He just doesn't throw anything in the middle of the plate," Jones explained, "and he doesn't try to do the same thing twice in a row. If he throws you a cutter away he's gonna four-seam you in. If he throws you a cutter in, he's gonna sink you away. That's what he's done."
This afternoon in Grapefruit League action, John Lannan's success against the Braves continued as he gave up a two-out opposite field single by Brian McCann, but got through a quick scoreless first. After the Nationals went down in order against Braves' right-hander Tommy Hanson in the bottom of the frame, Lannan jammed ATL first baseman Freddie Freeman, who flew out to Jayson Werth in right to start the second. Lannan got up 0-2 on Braves' right fielder Jason Heyward, but the left-handed slugger refused to bite on either a slider in the dirt or a big slider that broke across the zone, 2-2. Heyward ended up singling on a high hopper that bounced through the middle of the infield and into center. Two groundouts to short later Lannan's through a scoreless second, however, and he's got four ground ball outs in two innings of work.
Michael Bourn reached first safely on a one-out bunt single in third, in spite of a nice play by Chad Tracy and Danny Espinosa. Tracy got the ball on the infield grass and tossed to Espinosa covering, but it was behind the second baseman and though Espi barehanded the toss, he missed the bag with his foot as he crossed over into foul territory just ahead of the sprinting runner. "Safe!" Lannan lost McCann and issued a two-out walk in the next at bat, but the wind helped the Nats' starter out when Dan Uggla's crushed fly to left fell into Jason Michaels' glove just short of the wall. 3.0 scoreless for Lannan.
Grounder. Desmond. Out. Grounder. Desmond. Out. Grounder. Desmond. Out. Grounder. Desmond. ERROR, ERROR, ERR-OAR. E6. Ian Desmond was all over the first few grounders John Lannan sent his way through the first three innings, but he booted a sharp one from Freddie Freeman, putting the leadoff runner on in the fourth. A grounder to first, pop to second and swinging K followed, however, and Lannan was through 4.0 scoreless and done for the day after 4.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 K's, 79 pitches, 50 strikes.
The Nationals finally collected their first hit of the afternoon off Braves' right-hander Tommy Hanson in the bottom of the fourth after Ryan Zimmerman was hit in the shoulder by a curve in the first at bat of the frame. They had their first two baserunners of the game in the third when Hanson hit Jesus Flores and walked Ian Desmond, but the Nats stranded both of those runners when Danny Espinosa lined out to Freddie Freeman at first. The Nats cash in one of the runners Hanson puts on in the fourth though. After Zim was hit and Jayson Werth K'd, Chad Tracy singled to move Zimmerman to second. A wild pitch/passed ball on an attempted pickoff play moved both runners up and Jason Michaels battled with runners on second and third and ended up grounding out to the right side of the infield to bring Zimmerman in. 1-0 Nats after a professional AB by the veteran bench option.
• Quick Recap Section: Chad Durbin looked sharp, throwing two scoreless innings in relief in which he allowed just one hit. Nats' left-hander Atahualpa Severino retired the Braves in order in the seventh. Tyler Clippard hit a batter, Andrelton Simmons, but Nats' backstop Carlos Maldonado cut the young Braves' SS down when he tried to take another base. Clippard finishes a scoreless eighth when ATL OF Jose Constanza flies to left. 1-0 Nats after eight and right-hander Ryan Perry... blows the save, giving up a 2-out RBI single by Jason Parraz that ties it at 1-1 after eight and half. Still tied after nine, and the Braves score two more in the 10th. An Espinosa error lets a run score, and a sac fly puts the Nats down by two at 3-1. Washington loads the bases against left-hander Jose Lugo with one down in the bottom of the 10th. Chad Tracy's sac fly makes it 3-2, but Davey Johnson shows utter disdain for ST games (or has no one left on the bench), batting Ryan Perry with two on and two out. Perry K's looking. Braves win, 3-2 final. BOX SCORE.