Sunday, August 29, 2010

Lannan's Cannons & Friends

As John Lannan slowly walked from the mound to the home dugout for the final time this afternoon, a large standing ovation from the announced crowd of 24,782 took place. The sign of appreciation for a young man that seemingly has transformed his Big League career in the month of August, 2010. For nearly eight full innings, Lannan's left armed cannon had mostly shut down The St. Louis Cardinals in order while John's teammate & friend, Michael Morse, had fired off his cannon of a bat, in support, with a laser beam two run homer in the bottom of the 3rd.

At the time of John Lannan's removal from this game, Our Washington Nationals led 4-1 over The Cards. D.C.'s team was in the lead thanks to the lanky lefthander returning to form. This Sunday Our Number 31 put on a vintage performance. He kept the ball down in the strike zone. His infielders working behind him turned two double plays. John forced 13 ground ball outs. And even though Matt Holliday reached on a leadoff double in the top of the 7th for St. Louis--the biggest of 8 hits scattered off Lannan all afternoon--Holliday's eventual scoring of The Cardinals first run on a ground out by Jon Jay did little to damage a Washington starting assignment well done.

Looking for stability in their starting rotation, D.C.'s team needs hurlers to step up and produce these days--those that can convince they belong. John Lannan did exactly that this afternoon at Nationals Park. He showed the confidence, the guts and the guile necessary to pitch again on the big stage--against a good opponent. Savvy not seen from Washington's Opening Day Starter from this past April through June when John struggled so badly--Mike Rizzo reassigned him to AA Harrisburg. Our GM deciding Lannan at that time needed to work out his control issues in the minor leagues--not in the major leagues.

On this beautiful late summer day, John Lannan reassured his bosses and Washington's fans that his early season control issues are now behind him. He did not walk a single St.Louis batter. He even struck out Albert Pujols to end the sixth frame. And when Our Number 31 completed his longest outing of the season (7.2 innings), John left knowing full well, he was deserving of all the accolades that were shortly to come.

Lannan's Cannon had ruled this day. And with it, so did Our Washington Nationals.

Drew Storen recording the four out save, although not without a little bit of drama. Pedro Feliz taking Drew deep with one out in the 9th while St.Louis pinch hitter Colby Rasmus stepped to the plate with two outs representing the tying run. A little bit of a scare finished off when Storen showed off his young cannon of arm by whiffing Rasmus on a wicked slider that fooled Colby so badly--he might well have had the opportunity to swing at it twice.

Final Score From Nationals Park where John Lannan fired the first salvo, Michael Morse provided the cannon fire and Drew Storen eventually cleaned things up: Our Washington Nationals 4 and The St.Louis Cardinals 2. Curly "W" Number 56 represented Washington's first series victory over The Cards since August, 2007. And became the first time since July 31st, D.C.'s team has won back-to-back ball games. A span of 27 games--incredibly. The Bang!! Zoom!! Of The Fireworks!! proving, once again, how important starting pitching really is to most any game's outcome. John Lannan went deep into today's game. His left armed cannon kept the score down and he gave his teammates plenty of opportunities to push across the few runs necessary against a solid St.Louis starter in Adam Wainwright to gather a much needed win.

If you can excuse Ian Desmond's two out error in the 9th inning this afternoon that extended this game briefly and brought Colby Rasmus to the plate as the game tying run against Drew Storen, today's game was everything last night's game was not--well played and clean. The type of game The Baseball Gods will always look down on in appreciation. Lannan's Cannons & Friends played a beautiful game this Sunday at Nationals Park. And in doing so, provided little cannon fodder for their critics.

Game Notes & Highlights

John Lannan was the story this day. In his 6th appearance since returning from AA Harrisburg, Washington's 2010 Opening Day Starter continued to transform his season. Only a leadoff double by Matt Holliday in the top of the 7th inning which led to The Cardinals' first run ruined his day. After winning his 6th game of 2010 this afternoon, John Lannan went to the home clubhouse confident in the knowledge that since returning to the Major League Roster on August 1st--he's won four games, lost just one while sporting a solid ERA of 3.25. Maybe it's his longer hair. Maybe it's the pants being worn longer. Maybe, it's his newly modified windup. Or maybe, it's just the fact that Lannan is healthy again. For 7.2 innings today, John was exactly what everyone has seen from him in his past and expected from him in 2010. He pitched a great game and even knocked in two runs with a single to right in the 2nd inning. More than enough to be proclaimed "The Player Of The Game."

Drew Storen hammered out the 4 out save. The third save in his young career, but it wasn't without controversy. Drew whizzed the first pitch he threw in the 9th inning--BEHIND Matt Holliday. The St.Louis Slugger immediately started jawing and walking toward the mound--where Nationals Catcher Wil Nieves stopped him and so did Home Plate Umpire Rob Drake. But that wasn't enough to keep Cardinals Manager Tony LaRussa from coming out and arguing. Nor did it keep the remainder of the umpires--Joe West, Angel Hernandez and Dan Bellino from involving themselves as well. LaRussa wouldn't calm down. Nor did Jim Riggleman when it was determined to warn both sides (meaning another inside pitch thrown might end in an ejection).

Eventually, after what seemed like an eternity, the game continued. Matt Holliday grounded out after breaking his bat (to nearly a standing ovation from D.C. Fans), but that didn't keep The Cardinals' left fielder from running right by the mound to speak to Storen. He didn't have much of a chance to say anything because Rob Drake rushed out and got between both players and clearly told Holliday to high tail it--to the visiting dugout.

Storen allowed the solo home run to Pedro Feliz moments later. Thankfully, that was it for the day's scoring when Drew struck out both Jon Jay and Colby Rasmus between a two out fielding error by Ian Desmond--to end this game.

Lannan surprised just about every single person in the park when he lofted a Adam Wainwright pitch down the left field line in the bottom of the 2nd inning. He clearly stunned The Cardinals as the two-out clutch hit plated both Adam Dunn and Michael Morse thanks to Matt Holliday misplaying the spinning baseball in left and running over the ball before finally retrieving it.

"Mikey Mo's" home run was a thing of beauty. Sitting dead red, Michael Morse rocket launched a Wainwright fastball in the bottom of the 3rd inning JUST OVER the left field wall. With Adam Dunn on base with a walk--Morse's home run proved to be the game winning scores plated this day. Slumping early in August, Michael has again been hot of late and finished this day with a batting average of .294 along with 10 home runs and 27 RBI. Looking to play on a more regular basis--he's getting his chance and making it hard for Our Washington Nationals to leave him out of their daily lineups.

Morse, Dunn and Roger Bernadina all had two hits today off St. Louis pitching. And Bernadina raced back to the left centerfield wall in the top of the 5th inning to take what looked like a sure double away from The Cardinals' Yadier Molina. The Defensive Play Of This Game that featured Roger using all of his speed to track down the fast falling baseball--reaching out with his right gloved hand to snare the ball near the warning track. Nice play.

Again, The Cardinals' shortstop made another fine defensive effort this day. Brendan Ryan proved again today that he can pick up the hot shots. Roger Bernadina smoked a grounder up the middle--on the 3rd base side of 2nd--where Ryan ranged over and short hopped the baseball into his mitt and cleanly threw out the fast moving Bernadina. Roger kept staring at Ryan the entire time he was heading back to the dugout.

Except for a 1st inning single. Washington shut down the Greatest Slugger In The Game. Albert Pujols was not a factor this afternoon. Lannan handled him well from the mound. And Drew Storen stuck him out to end the top of the 8th on a wicked slider.

Josh Willingham sighting. Recovering from knee surgery earlier this week, Washington's starting left fielder was back on the bench in uniform watching--but not eligible to play for the remainder of the season.

Abe won the 4th inning Presidents Race. Then all four Rushmore's got together to display signs reading "It's a double rainbow"--whatever that is supposed to mean.

Sunday was also the 2nd and last Pups In The Park promotion this year. 100 or so dogs and their owners enjoyed the game while sitting in the leftfield mezzanine seats and the upper left field terrace seats at Nationals Park. Throughout the game, many dogs and their owners were shown watching, dancing and playing on the HDTV Screen.

This afternoon was probably the clearest sharpest weather day of the year on South Capitol Street. Not a cloud in the sky and that meant a good opportunity to walk around the ballpark and take beauty shots.

Shortly after the conclusion of the game, Our Washington Nationals announced that Livan Hernandez's contract has been extended through the 2011 season. Ole Number 61, the very man that threw the first pitch in Nationals History and to this day is beloved by the fan base--will return next season after anchoring and mentoring Washington's young staff all season. Livo has taken the ball for each and every starting assignment this season--without fail. In doing so, Livan Hernandez has given D.C.'s team a solid chance at victory every fifth day this year.

And finally, The Patron Saint of Nationals Park celebrated his 90th birthday today. Lorenzo Crow, who attends most every home game, was honored on the HDTV Scoreboard in the 5th inning, The Former Negro League player was given Presidents Club Seats and a cake from his many fans. One of nicest people around that's a true fan of Our Washington Nationals.

Today's InGame Photos--Nick Wass (AP)
All Other Photos Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved

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