WASHINGTON -- After pitching five innings and allowing five runs (four earned) against the Cubs on Tuesday, left-hander John Lannan said he wanted to take his pitching to the next level and pitch deep into a game.

Lannan did just that Sunday afternoon as the Nationals defeated the Cardinals, 4-2, at Nationals Park to take three out of four games from St. Louis and improve to 56-75.

Lannan pitched 7 2/3 innings, allowing one run on eight hits. The lone run Lannan gave up came in the seventh inning, when Matt Holliday scored on a groundout by Jon Jay. Lannan is now 4-1 with a 3.25 ERA since returning from Double-A Harrisburg on Aug. 1.

"I want to be confident with each pitch," Lannan said. "I think I did a pretty good job of that, especially to lefties. I made smarter pitches. I was more careful with the sliders today. I felt comfortable with my changeup, throwing the ball in and my curveball felt pretty good."

Lannan also helped himself with the bat by hitting a two-run double to left field off Major League ERA leader Adam Wainwright in the second inning, scoring Adam Dunn and Mike Morse.

"Adam Wainwright is a great pitcher and could win the [National League] Cy Young [Award] this year. He just left one up for me. I was able to hit it down the line," Lannan said.

An inning later, Morse gave Washington a 4-0 lead when he hit a two-run homer over the left-field wall.

Nationals closer Drew Storen entered the game with two outs in the eighth inning. He was able to strike out the Albert Pujols to end the inning. But the game became interesting in the next frame.

Holliday led off and was almost hit by a pitch. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, who argued with home-plate umpire Rob Drake for about five minutes, wanted Storen ejected.

Before the game, crew chief Joe West spoke to La Russa and Nationals manager Jim Riggleman. The umpire wanted to make avert any shenanigans one day after Nationals center fielder Nyjer Morgan shoved catcher Bryan Anderson at home plate even though there wasn't a play at the plate in Saturday's rout.

"We were told before the game that [there would be] no funny business because of the cheap shot that Morgan did," La Russa said. "And here's a guy [Holliday] that hits a single and a double and they throw the ball behind him. There was going to be no ifs, ands or buts. But in [the umpires'] opinion, the pitch got away [from Storen]."

Storen denied there was intent to hit Holliday. He just couldn't control the pitch.

"I was not trying to hit Holliday," Storen said "Apparently, that's why La Russa came out there. That was not the case. [During the delay] I was trying to stay focused and just think about the next pitch."

Riggleman didn't like the fact that the game was being delayed and said so to Drake and West.

"Clearly there was no intent. It was a terrible pitch. It was 4-1," Riggleman said. "We certainly don't want to be hitting anybody or get anybody on base and get a rally started. After what happened last night, you could see where this is coming from."

Instead, a warning was issued and Storen was able to get Holliday to ground out. However, the next hitter, Pedro Feliz, hit a home run to make it two-run game.

After Jay struck out, Yadier Molina reached base on an error by shortstop Ian Desmond. Colby Rasmus came in as a pinch-hitter and representing the tying run. But Storen struck out Rasmus to end the game and pick up his third save of the season.

"I kind of got sloppy at the end, but I was happy with my outing," Storen said. "They are good hitters. I guess it was my day."