Lannan, staked to a 4-1 lead, wanted to keep pitching even though he had thrown 94 pitches on a hot, humid day. He asked Johnson for one more hitter, confident he could induce a double play and get through the sixth.
“I said, ‘Nice try,’ ” Johnson said. “But I like the fact that he wanted to stay in there.”
Lannan did leave, but he earned the win after the Nationals poured on three more runs and four relievers. allowed one run in 3 2/3 innings. Afterward, Lannan chuckled when he thought back to getting pulled.
“I wasn’t being defiant or anything,” Lannan said. “I really just said it like, ‘Can I get one more hitter?’ I said it as nice as possible. I felt good, and I wanted to keep on battling. But my pitch count is high, it’s a hot day, our bullpen is fresh. I understood why.”
Johnson may have felt Lannan had tired more quickly in the humidity, the kind of air you need to chew before you can breathe it. The velocity of Lannan’s fastball was down a tick. He entered Monday averaging 89.9 miles per hour this year with his two-seam fastball. Against the Dodgers, the two-seamer hummed at an average of 87.7 mph.
It did not make him any less effective. Lannan had lost four consecutive starts entering Monday, but he had allowed just eight earned runs in 21 innings while the Nationals scored three total for him. In his last five starts, Lannan has a 3.08 ERA.
Lannan’s start almost included one of the coolest things in sports – a 5-4-3 triple play. In the fourth, Lannan allowed a walk and a single to start the inning. Russ Mitchell grounded to Ryan Zimmerman, and Lannan hoped for a double play. “I didn’t even think about” a triple play, he said.
At shortstop, Ian Desmond immediately thought about it. “Right when it got hit, I knew Zim was thinking it and I knew Espi was thinking it,” he said. “I thought I was going to see a triple play right there. We got the arm at second base for it.”
Zimmerman shuffled one step to right, stepped on third base and flung a sidearm, off-balance throw to Danny Espinosa at second base. “I’m like, ‘Oh my, there might be a chance,’ ” Lannan said.
Espinosa pivoted and, with Aaron Miles sliding into his legs, fired to a wild throw first base. (Espinosa did not have his best day; he also struck out four times.)
First baseman Chris Marrero still could have made the play. But he stretched early, which disallowed him from reaching a few feet to his left, where the ball bounced. It skipped past him, and the Nationals settled for a double play.
“Yeah,” Lannan said. “That would have been awesome.”