The Nationals' loss to the Phillies on Sunday was something of an opportunity missed, a lost chance to sweep their frequent tormentor for the first time since the Nationals came to Washington. And while the Nationals still did plenty of things right in a six-game homestand against the best two teams in the NL East, the 11-inning loss on Sunday kept it from being a great week.
Instead, the team heads west with the knowledge that it managed to turn out two series wins despite not having Stephen Strasburg for either of his scheduled starts this week. WIth him on Sunday, they might've beat the Phillies handily. That result, and the chance at a sweep of Philadelphia, will have to wait for another time.
John Lannan: Sunday's start wasn't perfect; Lannan got himself in and out of trouble on more than one occasion. But it sufficed for a pitcher who'd spent the last five weeks at Double-A Harrisburg trying to sort out his stuff. Lannan's three strikeouts to end the fifth inning with runners on first and second were the highlight of the day, though as he pointed out, he could've pitched longer had he not run up his pitch count. Still, a solid first step back for Lannan.
Drew Storen: If this was something of an audition for the full-time closer's role, Storen did more than enough to get a callback. He needed just 19 pitches to record six outs in the ninth and 10th innings, keeping the game tied and holding the Phillies without a baserunner. After he fell behind Domonic Brown 3-1 in the 10th, he got a call on the outside corner of the plate with a fastball before pumping a 3-2 slider past Brown. A gutsy pitch from a 22-year-old reliever with plenty of cool.
Ryan Zimmerman: A day after beating the Phillies with his walk-off homer, Zimmerman went 2-for-5, tying the game on a double to right center in the fourth inning off Cole Hamels. He had 10 hits in this series. It's safe to say the third baseman is on a tear right now.
Collin Balester: It wasn't so much that Balester did anything wrong in putting a runner on first to start the 11th inning - Wilson Valdez beat out a bunt, and Balester still contended after the game that he beat Valdez to the bag after taking Adam Dunn's throw. But an ability to close out innings is what makes a big-league reliever, and Balester couldn't do that on Sunday. He left a fastball up to Placido Polanco with two outs in the inning, which scored the go-ahead run, and hung a curveball (his typical mistake) to Jayson Werth, who doubled off the wall in right center. Atahualpa Severino, not Balester, was sent down after Sunday's game, so the converted starter gets more time to work in the majors, but he'll have to clean things up.
Josh Willingham: The left fielder continued his funk on Sunday, going 0-for-5 with three strikeouts. He's got four hits in his last 18 at-bats.
Michael Morse: An 0-for-3 day for everyone's favorite backup; Morse struck out three times hitting in the sixth hole.
In Case You Missed It:
--Manager Jim Riggleman came out to argue with second-base umpire Dana DeMuth in the eighth inning, after Wilson Valdez stole second and Ian Desmond flipped over him while trying to tag him at second. Catcher Wil Nieves' throw took Desmond right toward Valdez, but Desmond yelled something at DeMuth as he went airborne. From my view, there didn't appear to be much of a case for interference on Valdez; he didn't come in high on the play. With Nieves' throw taking Desmond into Valdez, the collision couldn't have been avoided.
--On Jimmy Rollins' flyout to center in the 11th, Nyjer Morgan bypassed cutoff man Alberto Gonzalez, trying to throw Valdez out at third. But Morgan's throw was too late to get Valdez. It's questionable whether a relay from Gonzalez could've gotten to Ryan Zimmerman in time to tag Valdez. But Morgan didn't give the Nationals a shot.
--The Phillies got 28 swinging strikes against the Nationals on Sunday; the Nationals had just 11 against the Phillies. That's largely because of the difference between Cole Hamels and Lannan, who had just five swings and misses. Hamels, with his deceptive changeup, had 19.
1. What did you make of the homestand? A good week, all things considered (Strasburg going down, trade rumors, etc.), or does it sting to miss a chance at sweeping the Phillies?
2. John Lannan will get another start this week, it appears. How much hope do you still hold for him at this point? Is he likely to be pushed out of the picture soon, or will he/should he stick around?
Leave your answers in the comments section, and we'll kick off our morning discussion there.