WASHINGTON (AP)—It was a rare night when all seemed right at Nationals Park. The weather was splendid after a solid week of rain that played havoc with the schedule. The crowd of 31,456 made the ballpark feel lively for a change.
Last-place Washington hit three home runs, and the majors’ worst pitching staff got a near-shutout from John Lannan(notes) in a game that took only 2 hours to play. Even the night’s flukiest play favored the Nationals, who wish they could take Saturday’s 7-1 victory over the New York Mets and clone it at will, if only because it temporarily lifted the gloom from a terrible season.
“I was so smart today,” manager Manny Acta said. “It was unbelievable how smart you can get in one night when you get a pitching performance like that and an offense like that and a defense like that. We were due for at least good weather, and we got it tonight, and John was just outstanding out there for us and the offense exploded.”
Lannan (3-5) pitched his first career complete game, allowing an unearned run and four hits in the first win by a Nationals starter since May 13. He faced the minimum number of batters through the first seven innings and was helped out by a franchise-record-tying five double plays—two 6-4-3s, two 4-6-3s and a head-shaking 9-3-6 that took a while to sort out.
“The last couple of innings I felt really good,” said Lannan, who induced 19 groundball outs and threw 61 of his 96 pitchers for strikes. “I haven’t felt that good in a while.”
Adam Dunn(notes), Elijah Dukes(notes) and Nick Johnson(notes) homered for the Nationals, who had lost three straight and nine of 10. Dunn is the only player in the majors with more home runs (17) than his team has victories (15).
“I had nothing today,” Maine said. “My whole body—I had nothing. It was awful. It was a waste of a day.”
Mets manager Jerry Manuel said the right-hander doesn’t seem to have his usual oomph on the ball.
“I would hope that John Maine is maybe going through a period of dead arm,” Manuel said. “I just didn’t see the electric stuff that we’ve been known to see. That’s a little concerning.”
Lannan gave the Nationals their third complete game of the season, the type of performance desperately needed by a team with a worst-in-majors 5.50 ERA, and the attendance was more than 10,000 over what the ballpark has been averaging this season.
Dunn’s homer in the three-run first inning got the fans buzzing. Dukes’ shot in the fourth and Johnson’s drive in the three-run fifth only added to the fun, but the wackiest moment came in the fourth on the unusual double play.
With Luis Castillo(notes) on first, Emil Brown(notes) hit a drive to right field. Dukes made a sliding stab to scoop the ball, with the umpire ruling it a trap. Castillo, however, thought the ball had been caught and headed back to first. Brown whizzed passed Castillo on the basepaths and told his teammate to head back toward second base. By that time, Dukes had made a throw while on his back to the first baseman, who then threw to the shortstop for the forceout. Brown was then called out because he had passed a runner.
In other words, the Nationals had caught a long overdue break.
“That never happens for us, you know,” Lannan said. “And I don’t wish it on any team, but it was just cool to be on the other side for once. It was just a weird thing, and I told myself that was going to be my last double play just because it was kind of just ridiculous.”
Lannan didn’t let anyone else on base again for a long while. He retired the next 11 batters before giving up back-to-back singles in the eighth. Dukes then flubbed Omir Santos’(notes) flare to right for an error that allowed David Wright(notes) to score.
The win put the Nationals at 6-26 against the NL East, including 2-6 vs. the Mets. … The three-run first inning matched the number of runs Washington had scored in its previous three games combined. … It was the fourth time the Montreal-Washington franchise has turned five double plays.