For eight innings, it looked like the Nationals could write off some of their fielding mistakes last night as inconsequential. The story of the game appeared to be that they were dominated by Roy Halladay, and there was nothing they could do about it except throw up their hands and admit they were beaten.
Only when they rallied for two runs in the ninth inning, their problems in the fourth and fifth innings all of a sudden meant something. Had the Nationals played better defense behind John Lannan in the fourth, or had Lannan been able to get hitters out in the fifth, the game would have been tied, or the Nationals might have even been winning it. Instead, the, "Well, what can you do?" mentality was rightfully replaced by something else: the feeling of an opportunity missed.
They fell 3-2 to the Phillies, and instead of having a series win secured, they'll have to beat Cliff Lee tonight to take two out of three after their comeback against Halladay fell just short.
"Him (Halladay) and (Florida's Josh) Johnson, those are the guys teams turn to to get a win," Lannan said. "I know that when I'm out there, that's what I want to feel like. I want to feel that the team thinks we have a good shot of winning when I'm out there. It doesn't matter who's pitching; I know I have to put up outs and put up zeros, and I didn't do that."
Here are last night's awards:
Lannan: He had a critical self-assessment of his start, but for six innings, Lannan did an impressive job of overcoming the poor defense behind him and some of his own mistakes. He got three double plays, using his sinker to bail him out of some jams, and only had one bad inning - the fifth, when he gave up three hits and a walk, and hit Ryan Howard with a pitch. But the outing was a step forward against the Phillies for Lannan, who entered last night with a 6.09 ERA against them. "Two of the guys that give me trouble are no longer with the Phillies, and (Raul) Ibanez, I pitched pretty well today," Lannan said." Well, one of those guys is still with the Phillies - it's just that Chase Utley is hurt right now. The other one? He was playing right field for the Nationals.
Adam LaRoche: After lobbying his way into the lineup last night, LaRoche went 2-for-4, getting the only two hits the Nationals had off Halladay into the ninth inning. He played effectively through his left groin strain, and it figures he'll be back in the lineup today.
Rick Ankiel: He started the Nationals' ninth inning rally with a double to deep right center, later scoring a run. And for a guy who hasn't walked much in his career, Ankiel continued to do it for the Nationals, drawing his fifth walk in 11 games.
Ian Desmond: It was a rough night for the shortstop all around; he went 0-for-3 with a walk at the plate, and committed an error in the fourth inning when he couldn't pick up a routine grounder. Then, with the Nationals in a lefty shift on Ryan Howard, Desmond tried to cover third base as Jimmy Rollins rounded second, obstructing the runner and automatically giving him third. Rollins would score a batter later. "You get such a great effort from him every day, that I can't even put that word (disappointment) in a sentence," manager Jim Riggleman said. "He gets charged with an error because there's a collision."
Jerry Hairston Jr.: In three at-bats against Halladay, Hairston struck out three times. He's hitting .059 so far this year. "I can't remember the last time I struck out three times in a game," Hairston said. "This game's pretty humbling, and I was humbled tonight."
Ivan Rodriguez: An 0-for-4 night, which included two strikeouts, ended with the catcher yelling at rookie umpire Alan Porter because of two called strikes in his final at-bat. The first strike, a fastball off the inside part of the plate, looked like Rodriguez had a case. The final strike, a curveball just off the outside edge, was closer to being a strike. But he swung just once in the at-bat. On an 0-2 pitch with the reigning Cy Young winner on the mound, the tying run on second and a rookie behind the plate, Rodriguez needed to put the ball in play. "Some of those pitches were a little questionable, I think, but Halladay reached back and found something extra," Riggleman said.
In Case You Missed It:
* Because the Nationals were in a shift on Howard, Desmond was in a different spot than he would normally be. The Nationals usually move him to the right of second base on that shift, with Ryan Zimmerman lining up in a shortstop-type spot. But with Zimmerman out of the lineup, the Nationals actually moved Hairston to Desmond's normal spot, leaving him to the left of second base. That might have contributed to some of the confusion on the obstruction play - Rollins broke because nobody was covering third, and Desmond was trying to get there in time, Hairston clearly saw the same issue - he took off toward third as soon as he let his throw go. "I didn't know if Jerry was going to come to me (at second) with the ball or not," Desmond said. "Then I realized nobody was covering third and I saw Jimmy trying to take off, so I was like, 'Oh, I've got to get over there.' What are you going to do?"
1. I'm typically not a fan of the blame-the-umpires line of thinking, but there did seem to be quite a bit of chatter about Porter's performance last night. Did you think the inconsistencies in his strike zone affected the game? And in the ninth inning, despite what appeared to be a couple shaky calls, don't you have to put some blame on Matt Stairs and Rodriguez for not swinging the bat and putting the game in the umpire's hands?
2. Are you encouraged that Lannan might be turning a corner against the Phillies? With Jayson Werth now in Washington and Utley hurt, two of Lannan's biggest nemeses weren't there last night, and he handled Rollins and Ibanez well. Does this version of the Phillies' lineup match up better for Lannan?
Leave your answers in the comments section. Talk to you later today.