VIERA, Fla. - John Lannan had his best outing of the spring allowing three hits, walking one while striking out two over four innings as the Nationals fell in 10 innings to the Atlanta Braves, 3-2.
Lannan threw 79 pitches, 50 for strikes and gave hit hits in each of his of first three innings. He had a troublesome third inning as he struggled with his command and was getting too many pitches up in the zone.
With two outs and runners at first and second, Dan Uggla crushed a pitched to left field that Jason Michaels caught for the last out but the ball was definitely held in the park by the wind.
"I thought he threw the ball okay, he threw too many pitches" said manager Davey Johnson. "I thought he had good stuff, I thought he had good sink. I thought he had 75 pitches after four innings (actually, 79) that's not typical Lannan but he pitched a lot better.
With the hamstring injury to Chien-Ming Wang and Johnson hinting after the game Wang probably won't be ready by Opening Day, Lannan will be kept on his turn in the rotation barring a trade.
Lannan had pitched to a 7.00 ERA coming into the game but lowered that mark to 4.85 after his outing today. Last time out against the Yankees in Tampa, he surrendered seven hits, six runs (four earned) over four innings and the difference this time was noticeable.
"I was just getting ground balls this time," Lannan said. "It's still stuff I should work on but it was a step in the right direction. I don't know how many more outings I have before the season starts but it was a step in the right direction."
Lannan knows the key to his success is ground ball outs. He must be able to get ahead of hitters and have the sinker going to achieve that result. He is trying to get into and find that rhythm that makes him effective.
"It comes and goes and that's going to come with a couple more outings," he said. "To go out there from the first inning to whenever I'm out to feel a consistent rhythm, and right now it kind of comes and goes, but as long as I know when it's gone, I need to get back into that rhythm."
Nationals right-hander Chien-Ming Wang, who is recovering from a pulled left hamstring, told some reporter this morning he would start to throw off flat ground on Thursday but manager Davey Johnson wasn't so sure that would happen and also indicated Wang wouldn't be on the clubs Opening Day Roster.
"That would be an optimistic two weeks but he's got a lot of bleeding in there," Johnson said. "He's moving around and walking good, but I don't see from what I saw today, there's quite a bit of blood in there. Before he gets on a mound, I'd say three weeks or maybe a month."
Extra inning debacle
Ryan Perry took a 1-0 lead into the ninth inning but gave up a two-out RBI single to Jordan Parraz to tie the game.
The Braves then took the lead off Perry in the tenth thanks in part to a two base error by second baseman Danny Espinosa on a ball hit by Jose Constanza allowing one run to score. The Braves scored third run of the game on a sac fly by David Rohm.
In the bottom of the 10th, the Nationals loaded the bases against Jose Lugo with one out. Chad Tracy's sac fly closed the gap to 3-2 and because the Nats were out of bench players, Perry had to hit and he struck out looking to end the game.
Why wasn't Tracy pinch hit for?
"I told (Mark) DeRosa before the game, I'm saving you for a left-hander with the game on the line," Johnson said. "Then Willy (Wilson Ramos) stayed around and I ask him if wanted an at-bat and he said, yeah, and that was in the eighth inning. A veteran like DeRosa, I said if you want home, go ahead.
"The way I had the pitching lined up it would have to go ten innings for the pitcher to hit and I should have known," he said chuckling. "So, it was a major screw up on my part letting him go home."
Perry was scheduled to pitch one inning but Sean Burnett who was scheduled to pitch today for the Nats was sent home with back spasms and was unavailable. The Nationals do not believe it's serious.
Perry said of his chance to hit down a run with two outs, "Davey said, well, you go a chance to win it now. Had a chance to win it before and I had a chance to win it then and I blew it both times. It happens."
The Nationals travel to Jupiter to face the Cardinals at 1:05. Gio Gonzalez will get the ball for the Nats and he will be opposed by Jamie Garcia.
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