Johnson discusses Nats’ 3-2 loss

PHILADELPHIA - The Nationals optioned John Lannan to Triple-A Syracuse the day before opening day last season and then non-tendered him this winter.

Today, Lannan got his payback.

The left-hander, who was twice the Nats’ opening day starter but spent the vast majority of last season in the minors, threw eight shutout innings against his former team today, leading the Phillies to a 3-2 win.

The Nats made things interesting in the ninth by getting to Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon for two runs, but their futility against Lannan over the first eight innings left them in too deep of a hole. They managed just four hits off Lannan - two of which didn’t leave the infield - and put only one runner in scoring position prior to the ninth.

“Lannan pitched a heck of a ballgame,” manager Davey Johnson said. “Basically didn’t use his breaking ball much. He threw fastballs, sinker/changeup. Guys were saying he had a pretty good sinker. Mixed his pitches up well. I thought it was vintage Lannan.

“(He got) a lot of groundballs. When he went upstairs, he had some life on his fastball. Just a heck of a ballgame.”

Having seen Lannan up close and personal for the last handful of years, you would think the Nats’ hitters would have a good idea what Lannan is bringing to the table and know how best to attack him. The results sure haven’t shown that to be true, however.

Against the Nationals this season, Lannan has a 1.38 ERA in 13 innings. Against everyone else, he has a 5.40 ERA in 31 2/3 innings.

This was the first time Lannan pitched at least eight innings in a game since Aug. 28, 2009 and was his longest scoreless start since throwing a complete-game shutout against the Mets on July 21, 2009.

“You know him so well, you kinda know how he goes after hitters,” Johnson said. “We should’ve ... some of the guys, we should’ve had a little better approach, I thought. But I just tip my hat to him, he just pitched a heck of a ballgame.”

Despite allowing two runs in his first inning of work off the disabled list, Dan Haren was able to settle in a little bit and deliver four scoreless frames after that. He certainly wasn’t at his sharpest - he allowed seven hits and three walks - but he was able to limit the damage and finished with seven strikeouts.

Haren drops to 4-10 on the season with the loss tonight, but his manager takes some positives from what he saw in this outing.

“Yeah, I was really pleased with the way Haren threw the ball,” Johnson said. “Actually, if we make a good throw to third (on a double steal), he probably escapes the first inning without any problems. He threw the ball very well. I was pleased with his command, I was pleased with his stuff. He threw a lot of pitches and that’s the only reason I didn’t let him go back out there, but he threw the ball really good. I’m glad to have him back.

“Everything was coming out of his hand better. I thought he threw some awfully good pitches. He had a good, live fastball, some good splits. The ball just looked good coming out of his hand.”

The Nats got to Papelbon twice in their last trip to Philly, causing the hard-throwing right-hander to blow two saves in that three-game series. They nearly put another blown save on Papelbon’s line tonight. Up representing the tying run with no outs in the ninth, Jayson Werth crushed a Papelbon fastball deep to center, only to have it come down in the glove of Ben Revere just in front of the fence.

“He hit the heck out of it,” Johnson said. “I was hoping. Made a good comeback. We hung in there.”

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