The Nationals were finally able to solve their old teammate, John Lannan, in a 9-2 win at Nationals Park.
Lannan had gone 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts in Philadelphia this season versus the Nationals, surrendering only two earned runs in those 13 innings.
Facing the left-hander, manager Davey Johnson put LaRoche in the sixth hole to give him some time to see Lannan work through the order.
LaRoche said when he found out pregame how bad his struggles had been against Lannan, he took that as an opportunity to write some new statistics against his former teammate.
“I wasn’t (aware) until today,” LaRoche said of not having a hit off of Lannan. “I knew I didn’t see him well. Then today, I heard someone say I was 0-for-20 or something against him. So I figured odds were in my favor, I was due for something.”
LaRoche said there was no big secret on his RBI double and later a single and run scored against Lannan.
“Honestly, I didn’t (see anything different),” LaRoche said. “Even the two hits I got off of him, I didn’t feel great on them. He is deceptive. To the rest of the guys, he was getting behind in some counts and leaving some pitches up. Typically, he is down in the zone and relying on us chasing a lot of that off-speed. We weren’t flinching at it tonight for the most part and making him get the ball up and smoking them.”
Zimmerman hit his 13th homer of the season in the second that stretched the Nationals’ lead to 3-0. Zimmerman said advanced knowledge of Lannan’s stuff didn’t give him any advantage. It was just basic pitching strategy that the lefty was unable to execute that got the bats going.
“You know, Johnny just like when he was here, if he leaves balls up he gets in trouble,” Zimmerman said. “I guess that is kind of the way it is with any pitcher. The last couple of times we have seen him, he threw the ball well and kind of kept the ball down and threw his changeup well. Tonight, he made a couple of mistakes, and we took advantage of them.”
The win snapped a four-game skid and was the most runs the Nationals had scored against the Phillies this season. It was also the most runs the Nationals had scored in nine games dating back to the 14-1 shellacking of the Mets July 28.
Would the offensive avalanche finally be an opening the Nationals need to get some consistency at the plate?
LaRoche cautioned that the Nats have done this before only to have the bats go cold for the next few games.
“That was nice, especially against Johnny, he has been tough against us, me in particular,” LaRoche said. “So to get out and throw some runs up, you know Danny (Haren) come out firing, was great. He has been awesome his (last six) outings.
“So again something to build off of. We have some runs, we go out and score eight or 10 runs and come out and be flat for a day or two, so something to build off and continue it tomorrow.”
It is the struggle the Nationals have had to try to break through all season long. Take the 14-1 win over the Mets on July 28. In the next eight games before Friday’s 9-2 win, the Nationals managed 20 runs combined. They went 2-6 in that span.
Johnson said it is pretty simple baseball mathematics.
“When you get a good-pitched game and you hit the ball, it looks like you are pretty good and you look relaxed,” Johnson said. “And when you don’t get (any) hits and your pitching is bad, you look terrible. We hit the ball on the nose, 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 get the good feeling, that nice and relaxed feeling and keep it going for a couple of months. It will be fun.”
There was no blaring music in the clubhouse as is customary after a win, the Nats’ first home victory in August, and only their third win in the past nine games.
It was almost the feeling that the Nationals will have to go on some kind of big run to get that music going again, and have the players relax a bit so that they feel comfortable again.
Nice win certainly, but still plenty of work to be done for the fun to return.