Lannan on wrong end of pitchers' duel
Left-hander strong over seven frames, runs into trouble late
NEW YORK -- Interim manager Jim Riggleman left himself open for second guessing on Saturday afternoon after the Nationals were edged by the Mets, 3-2, at Citi Field.
Riggleman decided to start Ian Desmond in right field. An infielder by trade, Desmond was playing right field for the first time since he was in high school. He was put out there so that Pete Orr could be in the lineup at second base.
Riggleman went so far as to say that if the Nationals lost the game because of Desmond, the skipper would take the blame. Desmond made a mistake in the seventh inning and it would spoil a great outing by John Lannan, who found himself in a pitchers' duel with former Nationals hurler Tim Redding.
Lannan lasted seven innings and gave up three runs on five hits. He threw just 74 pitches and should have allowed fewer than the three runs he gave up.
"Playing with him last year, he seems to come home here to New York where he's comfortable. He doesn't really get caught up in the hoopla, media and the limelight," Redding said. "He's got a good head on his shoulders, you know, to be honest. I didn't think about him having success against us this year.
"You know when you get into the fifth inning and it's still 1-0 and he's got 48 pitches through five innings, it's just like, he's doing it again. You know he's keeping hitters off balance, keeping guys off balance and you know all I could do was just feel fortunate. Hats off to him for doing a great job, he's going to be a staple in that rotation for a while. He doesn't get to overzealous."
The game was tied at 1 when New York rallied to take the lead in the bottom of the seventh inning.
David Wright led off for New York and hit a liner to right field. It looked like Desmond had a bead on it, but suddenly, the ball went over his head for double.
"That was a tough play," Desmond said. "[It's a] line drive right at you. You hear people talk about it for years and years that it's one of the toughest plays as an outfielder. I've seen a lot of people make that same mistake. It just happens."
The Mets would take advantage of the situation. Jeff Francoeur followed Wright and doubled to left field for an RBI. After Fernando Tatis lined out to Desmond in right field to advance Francoeur to third, Daniel Murphy hit a grounder that went under the glove of first baseman Adam Dunn. Francoeur scored on the play to make it a 3-1 game.
Dunn said he booted the ball because he spent too much time looking at Francoeur to see if he was going to score.
After the game, Riggleman had no regrets of putting Desmond in right field, but Riggleman wished he had put Desmond at short earlier in the game.
"I knew that I wanted Ian to play some outfield," Riggleman said. "I know primarily he is going to be in infielder, but I think he is going to be a guy who could help us in other ways. I don't regret putting him out there.
"I was really hoping we would take the lead with runners on first and second and one out [in the seventh inning]. I was going to bring him back to the infield and put Elijah Dukes in right field if we took the lead in the seventh. We had a couple of at-bats that didn't produce. So I sent Ian back out there."
As for Desmond, he played seven innings and made two putouts before switching to shortstop in the bottom of the eighth inning. He did not mind playing the position.
"I felt good. It was different experience," Desmond said. "It was fun. I just played nine innings in a big league game. That's pretty much all you could ask for. It was exciting."
Redding was even better than Lannan, throwing seven-plus innings and giving up one earned run. Known to elevate the ball in the later innings, Redding rarely put the ball in the hitting zone.
The Nationals were dealing with a hot pitcher. In his past six starts, Redding is 2-2 with a 2.72 ERA.
"He wasn't missing over the plate very much," said Dunn, who drove in his 100th RBI of the season. "Normally, he gives you something over the plate to hit. If he did, we didn't take advantage of it. He mixed his pitches very good. That's as good as I've seen him."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.