Braves 4, Nats 1
The what-if scenario has no purpose, I admit. But let's just suppose that way back in the first inning, John Lannan, with the benefit of decent fielding, had finished the frame after three outs instead of six. Let's pretend Josh Willingham had grabbed that liner instead of losing it in the lights, and let's pretend that Pete Orr had snared that one-hop grounder, and let's pretend that somebody -- either Willie Harris or Justin Maxwell -- had taken charge on that flyball between them.
"We could still be playing," Jim Riggleman said. "The score could be 0-0, the way [Javier] Vazquez was throwing and the way John was throwing. They both could have gone 11 tonight."
Instead, the Nats lost 4-1, allowing three unearned runs -- two charged to Lannan. Given the way he started (two unearned runs right off the bat, 35 pitches in the first inning), this night was especially impressive for the lefty. As Vazquez held Washington scoreless until an eighth-inning Josh Bard homer, Lannan responded with six consecutive shutout innings. After the first, he never faced more than four batters in a frame. He mixed speeds. He struck out six. He lowered his ERA from 4.07 to 3.93.
After the game, Lannan refused to point fingers at the fielding mistakes. Things like that happen, he said. He noted that plenty of times this year, fielders have bailed him out. Baseball is an equal opportunist.
"That was one of my better starts because I didn't let [the mistakes] affect my outing," Lannan said. "That game could have gotten out of hand and I told myself, Leave it on the line, and that's what I did."
Riggleman said he felt "terrible" that Lannan lost while pitching so well, and he acknowledged that "we're in a little funk here where if it can go wrong it's gonna go wrong. Willingham never saw the ball; he's lucky he didn't get hit with it because it's in the lights. That's happened a couple nights in a row, and I don't care how it's written, how it's portrayed, that's a fact: The ball has gotten in the lights on him a couple times. You can't catch that ball. We had a miscommunication on that ball in left-center, the ball drops in. We got a bullet at Orr... It was a tough play."
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