John Lannan could not remember ever entering a game from the bullpen, but he had a plan for his first time. The Nationals needed Lannan to pitch behind Chien-Ming Wang on Thursday, wanting them both to throw several innings, but knowing Wang require a more involved warmup because of his shoulder. Lannan would have to throw second.
“It’s something that I’ve never done before,” Lannan said. “I had some kind of idea. And then Wanger went down, and that idea went out the door. It was definitely different.”
Whatever Lannan did, it worked. He just wasn’t able to sustain it. Lannan, the replacement as the fifth starter should Wang’s strained hamstring turn serious, allowed six runs, four earned, in four innings of the Nationals’ 8-5 loss to the Yankees. Most of the damage came at the start of his third inning, when five straight singles led to four runs.
“I felt really good in the bullpen,” Lannan said. “I felt really good in those first two innings. But something happened in that third and fourth. I got my work in, but I wasn’t happy about it at all.”
With the help of a double play, Lannan faced the minimum for his first two innings, striking out two. In his third inning, though, his sinker rose in the strike zone. The Yankees did not make much loud contact, and one single was a bunt. Still, they hit the ball hard enough to do their damage on the scoreboard.
“You got to kind of not look at the stats too much,” Lannan said. “I made some good pitches. I made some bad pitches. You just got to build off the positive and learn from the negative. That’s what it was – it was a start of positives and negatives.”
● Despite initial doubt Wilson Ramos would play Friday, he is the Nationals’ lineup batting fourth as the designated hitter for the game against the Yankees in Tampa. Michael Morse is listed on the Nationals’ travel roster for Friday, but he was not listed as an available reserve on the lineup card. We’ll have to wait and see on that.
●The Yankees gave Bryce Harper a stiff test Thursday. After Michael Pineda struck him out in his first at-bat, the Yankees summoned left-handed specialist Clay Rapada. The Nationals want Harper to improve against southpaws, and Rapada, with his side-winding delivery, held lefties to a .104 batting average last year. Rapada struck out Harper on five pitches, most of them fluttering breaking balls on the outside corner.
Pretty much every left-handed hitter struggles against Rapada. In his next at-bat, Harper popped up against Juan Cedeno, a minor league lefty wearing No. 97. If and when Harper starts the season at Class AAA, a primary reason will be the Nationals desire to Harper to have more seasoning against left-handed pitching.
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