04/18/09 12:37 AM ET
Nats' bullpen weakens vs. Marlins
Lannan's strong outing undone by late-inning relief work
By Bill Ladson / MLB.com
The Nationals had a 2-1 lead going into the ninth inning, and after nine games, closer Joel Hanrahan received his first save opportunity, but he couldn't get the job done. Known as a power pitcher, Hanrahan acknowledged that he was thinking too much on the mound. He decided to throw a 2-2 slider to Cody Ross, who hit the ball over the left-field wall to tie the game, 2-2.
"It was a poor-excuse pitch," Hanrahan said. "I wanted to bounce it off the plate. I tried to overthrow it, but it was a good pitch for him to hit."
Asked if there were any thoughts of throwing the fastball, which is his best pitch, Hanrahan said: "I thought about it, but that was probably the reason I got in trouble out there. I was thinking too much. You can only think about it when it's over. You can go back and say that you could have thrown the fastball, but if I were to throw a good slider, who knows what would have happened. It was a poorly executed pitch."
An inning later, with right-hander Saul Rivera on the mound, the Marlins had a runner on first with two outs. The count was 2-2 to Dan Uggla. Rivera threw a cutter that looked like a called strike three to end the inning, but home-plate umpire Tim Timmons called it a ball to keep Uggla's at-bat alive. On the next pitch, Uggla then singled to put runners on first and third.
"I thought I had him, but [Timmons] called a ball," Rivera said. "Tomorrow is another day, and we are going to get them."
Jeremy Hermida then hit an infield single to plate Jorge Cantu to give Florida the one-run lead.
"They scored a run, and I couldn't close that inning," Rivera said. "I couldn't put up that zero."
The Nationals had a golden opportunity to least tie the score in the bottom of the 10th, but they couldn't capitalize on the situation against right-hander Matt Lindstrom. Elijah Dukes led off with a double, but he never advanced to third base.
Josh Willingham flied out to right field, while Jesus Flores and Alberto Gonzalez struck out to end the threat.
"That's the thing that has been killing us," manager Manny Acta said. "Our situational hitting hasn't been executed very well. Runner on second and no outs, you have to add on when you have the opportunity."
The loss overshadowed the fact that Lannan had his best outing of the young season.
In his previous two outings before Friday, Lannan allowed 10 runs in nine innings. He wasn't aggressive and was often behind in the count, but this time, Lannan lasted 6 1/3 innings and gave up just one run on three hits. The southpaw trusted his fastball, and he was able to get it on the inside part of the plate a lot more.
Lannan cruised through the first three innings, but he had problems in the fourth inning after allowing a solo homer to Marlins catcher John Baker. He loaded the bags following Baker's blast, but he got out of the jam without allowing another run.
"It was good to see him even if he didn't get the win," Acta said. "It wasn't wasted, because we really wanted to see him come back and pitch good for us."
Said Lannan: "I felt differently than the last two outings. My slider and curveball felt good, too. [Flores] did a good job tonight mixing it up on both sides of the plate."
The Nationals gave Lannan the lead in the bottom of the fourth inning off right-hander Ricky Nolasco. Gonzalez doubled to left-center field to drive in Flores. Two batters later, Gonzalez came home on an Anderson Hernandez single.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.