The biggest factor in the Nationals' 4-2 win over the Cardinals yesterday was the performance of John Lannan, who allowed a run in 7 2/3 innings. But Lannan's style of pitching only works as well as the defense behind him is playing, and to that end, the Nationals were particularly good on Sunday. They made one error - when Ian Desmond muffed a grounder while ranging to his left in the ninth inning - but ate up everything behind Lannan, and let the left-hander work quickly with his customary pitch-to-contact approach.
"We played good, clean baseball," manager Jim Riggleman said. "We've got a pretty good offensive ballclub, and our pitchers pitch to contact - they don't strike out a lot of people. So when we play good defense, we're tough to beat. We're competitive with everybody."
On offense, they got to Adam Wainwright - who had given up eight earned runs in his last five starts - and Drew Storen survived another wild finish to earn his third save (more on that later). Here are the awards:
John Lannan: We covered most of what made Lannan so good in the game story, but he deserves to be here, both for his great day on the mound and, oddly enough, for his bat. Hitting .059 this year, Lannan punched a liner off Wainwright to left, driving in two runs and helping himself to a 2-0 lead. And, as Riggleman pointed out, he had good at-bats all day; he made Wainwright throw 19 pitches in his three at-bats.
Michael Morse: After his second-inning single and third-inning homer, Morse had hit safely in seven consecutive at-bats, one shy of the club record. His streak would end there, but Morse continues to make an impression on the Nationals. He has 10 homers in 182 at-bats; projected over 550 at-bats, that pace would give Morse 30 for a full season. "He continues to make a statement for himself that he should be a big part of this ballclub," Riggleman said. "And certainly, we're receptive to that."
Adam Dunn: The big slugger seems to be coming back around with the bat; he went 2-for-3 on Sunday after his five-RBI night on Saturday. He also knocked in a pair of runs on Sunday and walked once.
Ian Desmond: The shortstop had a hit, but only saw 10 pitches in four at-bats and made his 29th error of the season in the field. He also made an ill-advised decision to go from first to second on Roger Bernadina's flyout to right, getting thrown out in the seventh inning and short-circuiting a chance to add on some runs.
Willie Harris: Not much was working for the outfielder, who started on Sunday after a couple strong games off the bench. He went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.
In Case You Missed It:
--Adam Kennedy did some nice things again, drawing two walks in the leadoff spot and helping to turn two double plays. He's driven in seven runs, scored three and walked three times in his last 10 games.
--Drew Storen, who got a warning when he threw behind Matt Holliday in the ninth inning, said he wasn't trying to hit Holliday with the pitch, pointing out that if you looked at it on film, you'd see it started toward the inside half of the plate and just took off. "I have a lot of respect for Matt. That's something I don't want to do," Storen said. "I'm just trying to work in, and the ball got away from me." I'll have more on some of the umpiring fallout from this series in a subsequent post.
--Storen got all three of his strikeouts on breaking pitches, two on sliders and one on a curveball, but gave up a homer on his fastball. Fastball command has been a bit of an issue for the young closer, and it cropped up again on Sunday.
1. What did you make of the ninth inning on Sunday. With umpires letting Tony La Russa state his case for quite a long time while Storen stewed in the afternoon heat, the situation irked Jim Riggleman. Did it irk you?
2. It was certainly an eventful series, between the Nationals' 13-inning win, Saturday's antics and Sunday's ninth-inning issues with Storen and Holliday. There was plenty going on off the field, too; the Nationals introduced Bryce Harper and said goodbye to Stephen Strasburg for a while. And in the middle of it, the Nationals took three out of four from a good team. Where does this series rank in terms of enjoyment for you this year?