by Alyssa Wolice, Contributor to District Sports Page
In the wake of the Strasburg Shutdown, Washington Nationals southpaw John Lannan threw 5 2/3 shutout innings in his return to the Majors as the Washington Nationals completed a three-game sweep with a 2-0 win over the New York Mets.
Despite media doubts surrounding his ability to fill Stephen Strasburg’s spot in the rotation, Lannan (W, 3-0, 2.41) allowed only one walk and five hits in his first start at Citi Field since 2010. Backed by stellar defensive plays by Ryan Zimmerman and Steve Lombardozzi — who started for Danny Espinosa as second due to the death of his gandmother, Lannan’s two-seamer frustrated the Mets, who batted into 10 groundouts during his stint.
Washington’s (89-54) bats were quiet as Mets starter Matt Harvey (3-5, 2.92 ERA) struck out the first four Nats to come to the plate. The Mets (65-78) threatened in the second inning with back-to-back singles by Lucas Duda and Kelly Shoppach, but Zimmerman fielded JasonBay’s chopper in time to get the force out at second. After Andres Torres’s line drive to Roger Bernadina, Harvey bounced one to Zimmerman, who fielded it from his knees to keep the Mets scoreless.
The Nats put their first run on the board in the fourth as Zimmerman belted his 22nd homer of the season into the seats in left center.
Zimmerman looked to get things started again in the sixth with a leadoff walk. Adam LaRoche followed with a line drive single to right and Ian Desmond walked to load the bases. However, the Nats failed to tack on any insurance runs as Tyler Moore popped to first, Kurt Suzuki popped to second and Lombardozzi flied to right.
The Mets batted into a similar situation in the bottom of the inning as David Wright singled to center and Duda drew a walk to leave two on and two out for Christian Garcia, who faced another high-pressure situation just eight days after his MLB debut with the Nats. After hitting Shoppach on the first pitch, Garcia settled down in time to force Ike Davis to fly to center to end the inning.
The Nats would yet again strand three in the top of the seventh after pinch-hitter Mark DeRosa singled and Jayson Werth drew his sixth walk of the series. Bryce Harper laid down a beautiful sacrifice bunt to advance the runners and Zimmerman drew a four-pitch walk to load the bases, but Adam LaRoche grounded into a 4-6-3 double play, keeping the Nats’ lead at just 1-0.
Craig Stammen pitched a one-two-three seventh and Desmond provided some breathing room with a solo shot to left center – his 23rd homer of the season.
In his first appearance in 10 days, Sean Burnett took to the mound in the ninth in a save situation. However, after singles by Dudo and Torres, Davey Johnson called upon Drew Storen to close it out for the Nats and secure the shutout.
THE TAKEAWAY: With the Braves’ loss to the Brewers tonight, the Nats’ magic number for the division is now down to 11 heading into the Atlanta series.
THE GOOD: Despite facing backlash about the Strasburg Shutdown, the Nats proved they still boast one of the sharpest rotations in the league as John Lannan tallied his first win since his most recent call-up from Syracuse. In addition to keeping the Mets scoreless, Lannan proved the Nats do, in fact, have a starter with a decent pickoff move as he successfully nabbed Ronny Cedeno on first in the third inning.
The Nationals bench delivered once again as DeRosa led off with a single in the seventh, batting in place of Roger Bernadina.
Ryan Zimmerman extended his NL-leading current hit streak to 16 games and has now batted in a run in nine consecutive games – breaking the Nationals/Expos previous franchise record of eight.
THE BAD: Michael Morse was out of the lineup due to a sore left wrist, which has been bothering him over the past few weeks. Tests were negative but Davey Johnson said he would wait to see how Morse looks during batting practice Friday before deciding to play him in the Atlanta series.
THE UGLY: The Nationals left nine runners on base, including five in the sixth and seventh innings alone.
STATISTICS: Seven hits, 5 BBs, 11 Ks. 1-for-5 with RISP, 9 LOB, 1 GIDP. 1 Error (Zimmerman, 16), 1 DP.
NEXT GAME: Friday at 7:35 pm against the Braves. Ross Detwiler (9-6, 3.23) faces Kris Medlen (8-1, 1.64).
Alyssa Wolice is a Contributor to District Sports Page. An American University alum, Alyssa worked as a political blogger and financial reporter before making the switch to sports journalism. As a former production assistant, she covered the Nationals, Redskins, Capitals, Wizards, D.C. United and local collegiate teams. A New Jersey native, Alyssa currently serves as a community and sports reporter for a number of small-town newspapers in her home state and works full-time as a marketing communications specialist with a trade association based in Washington, D.C. You can follow her on Twitter @awolice.