The Nationals break through, win two
Craig Stammen and John Lannan room together during spring training, and before they left their apartment this morning they shared a quick message. "We told each other, 'We're getting two today,' " Lannan said.
Lannan boarded a bus for Jupiter, Fla. to face the St. Louis Cardinals and Stammen stayed in Viera to start against the Florida Marlins. Both pitchers fulfilled their vow -- Lannan and Stammen each allowed no earned runs over four innings as the Nationals brought an emphatic end to their dismal 11-game losing streak. Their split squads beat the Cardinals, 4-2, and the Marlins, 12-3.
Lannan, the likely opening day starter, had perhaps the best pitching performance of the Nationals' spring. He allowed two hits and hit a batter, but the most impressive breakdown was this: He faced 17 batters. One was hit by a pitch, two flied out, two struck out, and 12 hit the ball on the ground.
The concentration of choppers and groundballs was an exceedingly good sign for Lannan, especially since he had not faced an opposing team in 11 days. His second scheduled start was rained out, and he had to throw a simulated. He was surprised yesterday that he didn't walk any batters.
"I was just happy to get back out there, you know?" Lannan said. "I felt pretty good. It's a start. I'm closer. Every start, you want to get closer."
When Ivan Rodriguez's two-run single gave him three RBI for the day, the Nationals took a 4-1 lead in the third. While the contingent in Viera was pulling away -- Willie Harris mashed a grand slam that put the Nationals ahead 12-3 -- the team in Jupiter was holding on.
In the ninth, Jesse English took the mound, taking over for Doug Slaten, who pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings. English is in his first major league camp after spending seven years in the Giants' farm system. He had been a starter and a reliever, and the Nationals believe he will be an effective major league at some point if he ditches the starting.
English feels this is the best he has pitched in spring training; he took off winter ball, and the rest made his arm feel stronger. Today, he had his first chance to pitch a full inning. A leadoff single put the tying run on first base. English struck out the next two batters, and then worked to a 3-2 count on David Freese. He wanted to throw his slider.
"I've always thought if I'm going to get beat, it's going to be with my best stuff," English said. "I feel like I throw my slider just as well for strikes as I do my fastball. Giving something that little wrinkle, hopefully it's not going to get hit."
Freese swung through it. Game over. "That," Manager Jim Riggleman said, "was a great pitch."
The Nationals maintained that their dismal results this spring -- those 11 straight losses -- were not reason for concern. Make no mistake, they still wanted to win. In the evening, Stammen sent out a tweet on his @cstammen35 account:" feels good to get one win, even better to get two!"
March 16, 2010; 6:24 PM ET
| Tags: Craig Stammen, John Lannan
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