“You can’t give them extra outs, or they’ll capitalize,” Manager Davey Johnson said. “That’s what they did tonight. You can’t do that against a good ballclub.”
The Nationals followed one of the most encouraging days of their season — which included Bryce Harper’s walk-off home run for Class AA Harrisburg, Stephen Strasburg’s dazzling rehab start for Class A Potomac and a win over their divisional bully — with one of their dreariest.
Lannan took the mound with an odd mix of history swirling around. In his last start against the Phillies, on June 1, he finally broke the hex they held over him, winning against them for the first time in his 14th try.
He came back to the site of his major league debut. On that day, he hit Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in back-to-back at-bats, and home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt ejected him. The home plate umpire Saturday night? Wendelstedt.
The Nationals set a tone with the first batter of the game. Jimmy Rollins grounded to second base, and Danny Espinosa could not corral an in-between hop with his backhand. When Lannan retired the next two hitters, he still had to face Howard with one on. Howard drilled a sinker the other way. It traveled only 354 feet, but it snuck over the left field fence to give the Phillies a 2-0 lead.
“You’ve got to make pitches, no matter what happens out there,” Lannan said. “They make great plays for you. It’s my job to make pitches, and I didn’t, bottom line.”
The Nationals scored two in the second on an RBI double by Laynce Nix and a single by Ian Desmond. The score remained tied only briefly.
Lannan’s start came undone in the third with the aid of another error. Shane Victorino led off with a slow grounder to short. Desmond charged the ball and made a quick sidearm throw to first that sailed high, forcing Michael Morse to leap off the base.
“You can’t make mistakes against any team in the big leagues and expect to win,” third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. “It’s just things we have to clean up, and we know that. It happens every now and then.”
Consecutive singles gave the Phillies the lead again before a walk to Hunter Pence loaded the bases. Here, in the midst of Lannan’s freefall, came one preposterously tremendous play. With the bases loaded and one out, Wilson Valdez chopped a swinging bunt between the mound and the third base line. Lannan bolted off the mound as the ball spun away from him.