New York native Lannan stymies Yanks
Johnson's two-run triple helps out as lefty pitches into ninth
NEW YORK -- Nationals left-hander John Lannan -- who rooted for the Yankees while growing up on Long Beach, N.Y. -- admitted that he had to find a way to control his emotions when he faced his hometown team at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday.
Lannan controlled his emotions, all right. The lefty lasted 8 1/3 innings, as the Nationals defeated the Yankees, 3-2, in front of 46,052 fans at Yankee Stadium.
Lannan had previously pitched in New York, but all of his starts there had come against the Mets. This game was different. Lannan was facing a team with great history, and he saw much of it unfold in person during the 1990s and early 2000s, thanks to his father, Ed, who was able to get Yankees tickets through a friend.
Lannan started watching the Bronx Bombers in 1995 and enjoyed seeing them win four World Series titles from 1996-2000.
In fact, Lannan was at Camden Yards when the Yankees won the American League pennant in 1996, and he was a spectator at Yankee Stadium in 2000, when New York defeated Seattle to win its third successive pennant. Lannan said that watching the Yankees was the reason he wanted to become a Major League pitcher.
"Big games -- I probably went to about eight to 10," Lannan said. "I was sitting down the left-field line. I was pretty close. The first time I was on SportsCenter, I was trying to reach for a ball."
Lannan didn't act like a fan on the mound Wednesday. The lefty was so effective that he held a no-hitter over the first four innings of the game, though his bid would end in the bottom of the fifth inning, when Robinson Cano led off with a solo homer.
"I try to stay as even-keeled as possible, no matter where we are at," Lannan said. "But it was different here. Even "God Bless America," that brought back some memories, too."
In section 226 at the Stadium, Ed Lannan watched his son pitch with his wife, Florence, and at least 30 friends and family members.
"I had a feeling he was going to do something special," Ed Lannan said. "It was great. It was special. Unfortunately, Derek Jeter wasn't in the lineup tonight."
Right-hander Chien-Ming Wang started for New York and logged his best start of the season, lasting five innings while giving up three runs on six hits.
The Nationals took the lead in the top of the fourth inning, when Adam Dunn lined a 3-0 pitch from Wang to right field for his 18th home run of the season.
Washington added to its lead in the top of the fifth inning. With runners on first and third, former Yankees first baseman Nick Johnson tripled past center fielder Melky Cabrera to bring home Willie Harris and Cristian Guzman.
It looked like Lannan was going to complete his second game of the season, but he got into trouble in the ninth inning. Johnny Damon led off with a home run to make it a one-run game, and two batters later, Mark Teixeira singled to left field. Manager Manny Acta removed Lannan in favor of right-hander Mike MacDougal.
"[I wanted to finish the game] really bad -- really, really bad," Lannan said. "I got a little adrenaline pumping toward the end and made some pitches that were up. The whole time, I was calm. In that last inning, I was really pumped up. Even in Nationals Park, when I went into the ninth inning against the Mets, it was never that loud."
The way things were going, it appeared Lannan might have to settle for a no-decision.
After pinch-runner Brett Gardner stole second and third base with one out in the ninth, Alex Rodriguez drew a walk to put runners on first and third. Cano came to the plate and battled MacDougal.
After six pitches, the count was 2-2. MacDougal, who threw nothing but his four-seam fastball, thought it was time to throw a different pitch to Cano. But catcher Josh Bard signaled to MacDougal to keep throwing the fastball.
MacDougal did just that.
On the ninth pitch of the at-bat, MacDougal threw the fastball again. Cano grounded it to shortstop, setting off a game-ending double play.
Lannan came out of the dugout and ran to MacDougal near the mound.
"Nice job," Lannan said to MacDougal.
"I was trying to stay as cool as possible," Lannan said after the game. "That ninth inning, that reminded me of [the original] Yankee Stadium. My memories of the 'Let's go Yankees' chant was unbelievable. No matter what happened, I was just grateful for the opportunity. I got to pitch here. I'm glad we got the win tonight."
Said Acta: "The night belongs to [Lannan]. This is not the first time that he pitched so good in New York in front of his family and friends. He was fantastic. It shows that the best pitch in the game is the fastball. It was located well. He threw 80 fastballs today. He did a fantastic job."
The save was MacDougal's first save since July 16, 2006, when he was with the Royals. Acta believed that the closer received a confidence boost with the save.
"It should be a big boost, because he saved a huge ballgame in New York and in front of the Yankees," Acta said. "It was a tough situation. Cano has been hitting everything right on the nose, and it looked like he was on every one of his pitches before he hit that ball to [Guzman]. It's a good start for Mike."
And a great game for Lannan.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.