Despite Lannan's gem, Nats fall in 14
Two wild pitches in final frame spell doom in tense finale
NEW YORK -- A few hours before playing the Mets at Shea Stadium on Thursday night, the Nationals had a players-only meeting, according to two baseball sources. The gist of the meeting reportedly was trying to get back to playing baseball the right way and to get some of the team's intensity back -- do what it takes to win games.
The Nationals played hard, but they ended up losing another game as Joel Hanrahan's wild pitch helped the Mets win the contest, 3-2, in 14 innings. The Nationals have now lost 13 of their last 14 games and have a 4-12 record.
This devastating loss overshadowed the fact that left-hander John Lannan had the game of his life in his hometown. A native of Long Beach, N.Y., Lannan pitched six innings and struck out a career-high 11, while giving up a run on three hits. It marked the seventh time in Nationals history that a pitcher had double-digit strikeouts in a game.
Prior to the game, Lannan did not have a history of striking out a lot of batters. Lannan said he was able to fool hitters on Thursday because of a slider he developed during Spring Training.
"I had my curveball and slider working, and I was able to throw my fastball and keep it low," Lannan said. "I was planning to keep it low and have [catcher] Wil [Nieves] behind me. The slider really helps me now. I didn't have it last year. I had a good feel for it today. My curveball was working, as well."
Lannan got off to a slow start in the first inning. After Jose Reyes singled, Ryan Church followed and hit a deep fly ball to left-center field. It looked like Wily Mo Pena had a bead on it, but the ball hit Pena's glove and dropped in for a double, scoring Reyes.
Pitching coach Randy St. Claire went to the mound and told Lannan to settle down and start executing his pitches. In his last outing against the Braves, Lannan didn't follow the game plan and was hit hard.
"I told him, 'Mix your pitches and change speeds. You're fine,'" St. Claire said.
After that, Lannan got into a groove, retiring 15 consecutive hitters before giving up a single to Reyes in the sixth inning.
"The kid had a tremendous outing," manager Manny Acta said. "We, as an organization, and myself as a manager, I'm very proud of this kid. Let's not forget that this kid was pitching in A ball last year. He comes to Shea Stadium as a local boy, and he goes out there and gave us a tremendous effort."
Mets right-hander Nelson Figueroa was just as effective, giving up two runs in seven innings. The two runs were scored in the fourth inning, when Nick Johnson hit a two-run homer.
Washington had a 2-1 lead going into the bottom of the eighth inning, but an error and spotty relief pitching ruined the night.
With two outs in the eighth and Saul Rivera on the mound, Church hit a slow roller to Ronnie Belliard, who was playing a deep second base. He went after the ball, but it went under his glove for an error.
"If you are going to win, 2-1, against the Mets, you are going to have to play perfect baseball -- and we didn't," Acta said.
Rivera was taken out of the game in favor of Luis Ayala, who walked David Wright. Left-handed slugger Carlos Delgado was the next hitter, and one would have thought that left-hander Ray King would enter the game. But Acta brought in closer Jon Rauch, a right-hander, and it backfired. Delgado ended up sending Church home with a single.
King acknowledged that he was surprised he didn't get the call.
"Being a lefty in any situation after six innings, I was hoping to come in right there," King said. "It was a situation where it didn't happen. There's nothing we can do about it. Whenever they call me, that's when I go."
Hanrahan was on the mound in the 14th inning, and that's when disaster struck. After giving up a leadoff single to Damion Easley, Hanrahan uncorked a wild pitch to advance Easley to second.
Hanrahan then tried to pick off Easley at second base and threw the ball away, allowing him to go to third.
"I had a slider grip and we went for it," Hanrahan said. "I should have made the move and not made the throw."
After Wright and Delgado were walked intentionally, that brought up Brian Schneider. Hanrahan uncorked a wild pitch, which allowed Easley to score and end the game.
"I tried to throw it too hard," Hanrahan said. "I had too much adrenaline going. [It's too bad] because these guys battled all day."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.