“That’s all we talked about for about five straight innings down” in the bullpen, Sean Burnett said. “We were still in shock. We were going to call down from the bullpen and ask for a curtain call.”
Even after the game, Lannan’s homer remained the topic of choice. When reporters entered the Nationals clubhouse after the game, Tyler Clippard called over to them. “John Lannan hit a home run,” he said. “I don’t know if you guys saw that or not.”
A team employee had retrieved the ball for Lannan, and it sat on the top shelf of his locker, inscribed with “1st ML HR.” He had watched the replay twice. His phone had 18 text messages, all of them containing roughly the same sentiment: “I can’t believe it.”
“It’s kind of a blur right now,” Lannan said. “I’m still pretty shocked.”
With one swing, Lannan had raised his career slugging percentage 20 points, from.113 to .133. He became the third pitcher to homer for the Nationals since baseball returned to D.C., joining Ramon Ortiz and Hernandez.
He had also put the Nationals ahead 3-0, all the runs he would need. Lannan held the Dodgers to three hits and struck out six. He may have been affected by the excitement from the home run, walking two batters in the bottom of the second and four overall. But he limited the damage, even in tough spots not entirely of his own making.
The Dodgers scored two runs off him in the fourth, one them earned, the other directly attributed to the two errors Desmond committed in a span of three batters. Desmond’s fielding has improved tremendously this year compared to last, but the fourth inning provided an ugly flashback. After not making an error from May 5 through June 21, Desmond has seven in 23 starts since. (Friday, he helped make up for the gaffes by reaching base four times, with three walks and a single, and scoring two runs.)
Lannan started the fourth by walking Matt Kemp, and Juan Rivera followed with a double down the left field line. Juan Uribe chopped a pitch toward short, and Desmond charged it, leading to an awkward short hop. The ball scooted under his glove and into the outfield, allowing two runs to score and cutting the Nationals’ lead to 3-2.
After Lannan recorded the first out with an infield popup, he gave himself a chance to escape the inning quickly by inducing a grounder to short from Jamey Carroll. Desmond flubbed the transition, rolling the ball weakly to second baseman Danny Espinosa. Lannan worked around the jam in four pitches after the second error.
Lannan took partial responsibility for the miscues, saying that his wildness contributed to a decrease in defensive alertness behind him.
The errors were forgotten after Hairston’s blast in the ninth. He had entered as a pinch-hitter earlier, and when he came to bat with the bases loaded the Dodgers summoned Matt Gurrier. Hairston went ahead 3-0, then took one strike and fouled off another to run the count full. He sat on a fastball, and crushed it on a line to left field.
“There’s no way he wants to walk me there,” Hairston said. “Ninety-five percent of the time, he’s going to throw me a fastball. I just put a good swing on it.”
The Nationals scored their first run with a two-out rally in the first. Ryan Zimmerman ripped a single up the middle. Michael Morse followed with a line drive straight at Uribe at third base. He smashed the ball so hard it went deflected off — or maybe went through — Uribe’s glove and rolled deep enough to left field for him to scoot to second base. Zimmerman scored.
An inning later, Lannan would walk to the plate carrying a reputation as one of the easiest outs in baseball. Then he sent the ball screaming through the thick Southern California air, his first home run at any level in more than a decade. Somehow, he acted like he wasn’t surprised. Rest assured, he was.
“I think everybody was shocked,” he said.