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You won't find many wins more resourceful - or more impressive - than the 4-2 victory the Nationals just finished against the Braves. Struggling offensively all day, they put just seven runners on base, and four of them scored on one swing (Justin Maxwell's grand slam in the second inning). John Lannan fought himself all day, but kept getting big outs when he needed them and continued a trend of striking out more batters. Sean Burnett was tremendous in 1 2/3 innings of relief, and Drew Storen got a save with a perfect ninth.
And because of all that, the Nationals became just the second team to win a series in Atlanta this year, dealing a costly blow to a team trying to hang onto the NL wild card.
Johnny and Phil talk with Jim Riggleman following the Nats' 4-2 win over Atlanta
A few thoughts on the game, for now; I'll extrapolate on some of these things a little later on.
--Lannan has 41 strikeouts in nine games since returning from Double-A Harrisburg. He had 24 in 14 starts before he went down. There have been a few mechanical differences about Lannan since he came back; for example, his delivery starts from a more crouched position than it did before, allowing him to hide the ball better. But mostly, the difference is Lannan throwing more quality strikes; he's getting ahead of hitters more frequently and forcing them to expand their zone when he wants to throw his curveball. His 56 strikes in 99 pitches today was actually lower than it's been in his last few starts, but sharp breaking stuff helped him get six Ks today.
--Maxwell's grand slam was the third of his career, in just four appearances with the bases loaded. HIs first career homer was a grand slam, and you'll of course remember the walk-off shot against Francisco Rodriguez in the Nationals' home finale last year. An uncanny stat for a guy who's struggled throughout this year.
--Lannan and manager Jim Riggleman had a mound conference with home-plate umpire Dale Scott before the sixth inning; there was a divot developing in front of the pitching rubber after Lannan and Braves lefty Mike Minor were working from the same spot. But Lannan got out of the sixth inning with the lead intact.
--Some great infield defense from the Nationals today; Ryan ZImmerman made an impressive charge to throw out Omar Infante on a bunt in the seventh, and Zimmerman started a 5-4-3 double play to end the eighth. There were a couple mistakes, most notably Nyjer Morgan losing a ball in the sun after he called off Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond, but overall, it was a sharp game for the Nationals today.
The Nationals head to Philadelphia after a day off tomorrow, and they'll have a chance to play spoilers again there, before both Philadelphia and Atlanta come back to Nationals Park next week.