Of all the Washington Nationals pitchers one would expect to get the team a much-needed win in Philadelphia over the hated Phillies, John Lannan would not have been the first name to spring to mind. He might have been the last, actually, since he entered the game last night with a record of 1-5 and an ERA of 7.06 in Citizens Bank Park. Lannan has a bad history in Philadelphia, but he banished some of it last night with a strong performance that was backed up by some early run support, as Nats batters swung some big timber against their division rival. The Nats built an early 5-0 lead thanks to some home runs, but the Phillies chipped away at that lead, scoring a couple off Lannan and then off the relievers until the game stood at 5-4 going into the ninth inning. It seemed another collapse by the pitching staff was about to yank a defeat from the jaws of victory -- and the Nats really needed a victory last night to hold off the surging Atlant Braves, who have won four in a row.
Not to worry, though. The Nats bats came through in the ninth inning with three runs, with RF Jayson Werth's 2-out, 2-RBI single as the key hit. Phillies fans booed Werth savagely, in part because the game was so close at that point, but also because Werth had earlier taunted Philly fans by pretending to throw a baseball into the stands. Reliever Drew Storen came on in the bottom of the ninth to close out the game and he did so efficiently, though the insurance runs meant he did not appear in a save situation.
The win improved Washington's record to 94-61, still best in the Majors and four games ahead of the red-hot Braves [winners of 9 of their last 11] with only seven games to play.
Lannan pitched 5 & 1/3 innings last night, giving up two runs, to improve to 4-0 in five starts this season.
"He's been outstanding for us this year," manager Davey Johnson said. "That's his fourth win up here. Big game against Atlanta, big one here. He's just been a big boost for us."
Lannan faced his biggest challenge last night in the third inning, with the bases loaded with only one out and slugger Ryan Howard coming to the plate. Lannan responded by striking out Howard and then getting Carlos Ruiz on a harmless comebacker, retiring the Phillies and keeping Washington in the lead 5-1.
The Nats got out to an early lead thanks to home runs from three of the first eight batters up to the plate. CF Bryce Harper hit the first pitch he saw from Philly starter Kyle Kendrick out of the park, becoming the second teenager in Major League Baseball history to hit 20 homers in a season. Harper is now only four homers shy of the record for a teenager, set by Tony Conigliaro. Harper has also scored 93 runs, just 7 shy of the MLB record for a teenager, and his 17 stolen bases are a record for a teenager. He's the only teenager in MLB history to hit at least 17 homers and steal at least 17 bases.
Moments later, SS Ian Desmond hit his 25th homer of the season, a career-high. Catcher Kurt Suzuki followed that with his fifth home run of the season. The Nats were up 5-0 and seemingly on their way to turning this game into a laugher.
However, Lannan gave up two runs before exiting the game and relievers Ryan Matteus and Tyler Clippard each allowed a run, making the game razor close as the teams went to the ninth inning. Standing in the on deck circle, Werth picked up a ball fouled off the bat of OF Danny Espinosa.Werth says he intended to throw the ball to some young fans, but saw a group of rowdy fans, older and possibly inebriated, so he tossed the ball into the dugout instead. This action earned Werth non-stop booing for the next few minutes, as Phillies fans took a season of frustration out on ther former star right fielder.
With two outs and two runners on, Werth got his revenge by slamming a single into the outfield, scoring two runs and putting the Nats up 7-4.
"I was so excited for him," Harper said. "I wanted to jump up and down and scream. ... These fans going crazy, booing him, telling him he sucks and whatnot. They don't know what they're missing. He's an unbelievable ballplayer, and he's been clutch for us all year. He's what gets us going."
Harper then delivered the coup de grace, crushing a triple that scored Werth from first, providing the final run of the game.