Washington collected 12 hits and scored nine runs tonight in a 9-2 win over former National John Lannan and the Philadelphia Phillies. Denard Span, Ryan Zimmerman, Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth had a hit each, with Zimmerman's one hit a solo home run. Ian Desmond, Adam LaRoche and Wilson Ramos were each 2 for 4 and Anthony Rendon was 1 for 3 with a two-run blast that started the scoring tonight in Nats Park. Nationals' manager Davey Johnson liked what he saw from his offense after they struggled to produce while getting swept in three-straight by the Atlanta Braves.
"That's the kind of lineup that I envisioned having," Johnson said after the team's 55th win, before adding that, "... being more successful against left-handers would have been the difference."
Johnson's left-handers: Span, Harper and LaRoche, were a combined 4 for 14 on the night, with LaRoche collecting his first hit off Lannan after 16 at career at bats against the sinker-balling left-hander. Did the offense come to life though? Or did Lannan have a rough night? The Nats' skipper admitted that the Phillies' starter wasn't necessarily at his best after holding the Nationals scoreless in eight innings in his last outing against his former team.
The Nationals loaded the bases with two down in the first before Adam LaRoche K'd swinging to end the potential threat. Rendon hit his two-run blast out to the right of center field in the second and Zimmerman followed with a two-out blast into the Red Porch seats that made it 3-0 early. LaRoche doubled in a run in the third. Ramos doubled in a run in the fifth. Dan Haren took a bases-loaded walk and Denard Span lined to right to drive in two before getting tagged out to end the bottom of the fifth inning with the score 8-1 in the Nationals' favor. Lannan left the game after that.
"He can be wild early," Johnson said of Lannan, "and he was consistently, I think, trying to make too good of pitches and when he does that he gets behind and he can get hurt. He had a decent curve ball, but we were helping him out. A lot of them were not strikes, the left-handers were [helping him out]. But you make him throw it over and you can get after him. But that was one of his worst games I'm sure this year. He pitched behind on everybody."
Haren, on the other hand, had another in a string of strong starts that have followed his stint on the DL in June and a cortisone shot that seems to have helped him get over whatever was bothering him in the first half. "After the break, he's pitched quality ballgames just about every time out," Johnson said after the 32-year-old right-hander's seven-inning, 97-pitch effort. "He still had a little left in the tank too. Could have probably given me another one, but it was an outstanding effort."
The difference for the 11-year-veteran since he returned to the rotation? "His command and when he gets ahead he's got a big difference in his split," the Nats' 70-year-old skipper said, "Like 80-81-82 [mph]. His cutter's got more life to it. He's locating it real well whether he's backdooring it or coming in. It's just fun to watch."
"I think he did have a little bit of an arm problem the first half," Johnson continued, "But he's a tough cookie and he pitched throught it. But even the catcher said the ball is coming out real good, whereas in the first half, the cutter was just barely moving and he's just a lot sharper. His rhythm is much better too." And he got run-support from a team that's failed to provide it throughout most of a so-far disappointing season. Everything came up Nationals tonight, however.
"When you get a good-pitched game and you hit the ball, it looks like you're pretty good and you're relaxed," Johnson explained. "And when you don't get no hits and your pitching is bad, I mean, you look terrible.
"And it's... what did we end up with 11, 12 hits or something like that. We hit the ball on the nose. I mean, we could have had more hits. We hit balls hard at people. When you do that everybody is feeling good. Can't wait to get up there. Hopefully we can start getting that good feeling, nice and relaxed feeling more and keep it going for a couple months."
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