LOS ANGELES (AP)—John Lannan(notes) had the nickname “Long Ball Lannan” even before he stepped up to the plate against Hiroki Kuroda(notes) and hit his first major league home run. It was Washington Nationals pitching coach Steve McCatty who gave it to him.
“That’s been my nickname for a while now, because I finally hit a home run in B.P. this year and I’d never done that before. We had T-shirts made, and it’s kind of funny,” Lannan said Friday night after he pitched the Nationals to a 7-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers with the help of Jerry Hairston Jr.’s(notes) grand slam in the ninth inning.
Lannan, listed at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, increased the margin to 3-0 in the second with a two-run shot that just cleared the right field fence. It was the first home run Kuroda (6-12) allowed against an opposing pitcher in four major league seasons, and it came in Lannan’s 196th big league at-bat. He also had a seventh-inning single that chased the 36-year-old right-hander.
“It’s kind of a blur right now,” Lannan added. “I wasn’t trying to hit a home run. I was just trying to put the bat on the ball. I got a pitch to hit and it went out. I tried to keep as cool as possible. They gave me the silent treatment (in the dugout), but it was cool. It’s still kind of shocking. I’m not that kind of hitter, and I still don’t think I am.”
Lannan (7-6) allowed two runs and three hits in 6 1-3 innings with six strikeouts and four walks to win for the fifth time in his last six decisions. The left-hander has a 2.28 ERA over his last 11 starts since giving up six runs in an 8-3 loss at Baltimore on May 21.
Aaron Miles(notes), who entered the game in a double-switch, chased Lannan with a double off the fence in left-center and took third on a groundout by Tony Gwynn, Jr. But lefty Sean Burnett(notes) threw a called third strike past Rafael Furcal(notes) to end the threat.
“I’ve talked to Burny and I said to him: `I’ve got all the confidence in the world in you and I’m going to use you in tough situations.’ He was outstanding,” manager Davey Johnson said. “We need him and he knows we need him. So I know he’s going to have a good second half.”
“That’s our version of a laugher—playing a one-run game until the ninth inning and then scoring four,” said Johnson, whose team has lost it’s last six one-run decisions.
Kuroda gave up three runs, seven hits and three walks in 6 1-3 innings and struck out seven in what could have been his final start for the Dodgers. He has been the subject of trade speculation leading up to the July 31 non-waiver deadline, with the club 13 1-2 games out of first place in the NL West and 13 below the .500 mark. Kuroda is 1-9 over his last 11 starts despite a 3.55 ERA during that stretch.
“I haven’t really tried to evaluate any of the guys that may or may not be here, but I know Hiro likes it here and he’s been pitching good,” manager Don Mattingly said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen with that, but I’m sure it’s something he thinks about a little bit because he’s not quite sure what’s going on. There’s been a lot of talk about it, but this time of year there gets to be a lot of rumors and names thrown around. I just look at it like it’s not really my decision.”
The Dodgers, beginning a nine-game homestand, closed to 3-2 in the fourth with a pair of fielding errors by shortstop Ian Desmond(notes). The first one came on a grounder by Juan Uribe(notes) that Desmond tried to short-hop, and it got past him as two runs scored.
“This is a hard infield and a fast infield,” Johnson said in Desmond’s defense. “Uribe hit that ball pretty hard, he tried to play it on a short hop and had no chance. This is the kind of infield that when the ball’s hit hard, you don’t need to charge it. But he’s young and hasn’t played here much.”
Uribe, who was credited with one RBI, got to second when Desmond booted Jamey Carroll’s(notes) routine grounder for his 15th error of the season—and then made a comical attempt at swatting the ball to Danny Espinosa(notes) at the bag. But Lannan minimized the damage by getting Gwynn to ground out after Kuroda advanced the runners with a sacrifice bunt.
The Nationals took the lead in the first, ending a streak of 16 consecutive games in which the Dodgers did not allow a first-inning run going back to their 1-0 loss at Minnesota on June 29. Ryan Zimmerman(notes) singled with two out, stole second, and scored when Michael Morse(notes) grounded a double inside third base and off the glove of Uribe as he tried to backhand it.
Johnson returned to Dodger Stadium for his first series there as an opposing manager since piloting Los Angeles to a 163-161 record from 1999 through 2000.
“I was always kind of a grass-roots, down-and-dirty baseball player, so I probably didn’t fit the image coming over here,” Johnson said. “The biggest disappointment I had here was the fact that there wasn’t an abundance of minor league talent knocking on the door and pushing the guys here to be better. I thought I was making progress, but I didn’t last long enough to make a difference.”
Notes: The last time the Dodgers had given up a first-inning run at home was June 22 against Detroit, when Casper Wells(notes) led off the game with a home run against Ted Lilly(notes). … RHP Kenley Jansen(notes) struck out all four batters he faced on 17 pitches and extended his scoreless inning streak to 13, the longest by a Dodgers reliever this season. … Lannan induced his NL-leading 19th double-play grounder to get out of a second-inning jam, as Carroll bounced to Zimmerman at third base. … Two of Lannan’s strikeouts were against slugger Matt Kemp(notes), who has fanned nine times in his last 15 at-bats. … This is the Nationals’ second trip to the L.A. area. They were swept by the Angels last month in Johnson’s first three games as skipper.