"We definitely wouldn't have won these last two games earlier in the season. Our attitude's changed, and it's a good sign. We're finishing this year strong. We know we can compete." --John Lannan, Aug. 6, 2009.
THE RESULT: Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn hit back-to-back home runs in the first inning, Cristian Guzman fell a home run short of a cycle, and John Lannan evened his record as the Washington Nationals built a 5-1 lead over the Florida Marlins and held on for a 5-4 victory Wednesday before 18,312 at Nationals Park.
Ronnie Belliard added a solo home run for the streaking Nats, winners of four in a row, eight of their last 12, and 10 of their last 16 games, raising their season record to 36-72.
Nyjer Morgan continued his torrid pace from the leadoff spot. He went 1-for-2, walked twice, stole two bases and scored twice.
Lannan (W, 8-8, 3.39) did not have his best stuff Wednesday night, but was effective nonetheless. He pitched six full innings, and allowed two earned runs on eight hits and two walks. He struck out six and gave up Dan Uggla's solo home run.
Sean Burnett relieved Lannan and had a rough go of it. He did not retire a batter, giving up two earned runs on a hit and a walk. Jorge Sosa came on and threw two innings on one-hit ball, and Mike MacDougal pitched a perfect ninth, striking out Nat-killer Hanley Ramirez to end the game, earning his 10th save of the season.
THE TAKEAWAY: The shreds of decency we've seen the last two weeks have morphed into real quality. Two nights in a row, the Nats have defeated a previously unbeatable foe (3-23 in their last 26 games against Florida) in one-run games that surely would have ended in defeat in May or June.
After Burnett struggled, there was every opportunity for the bullpen to implode, just as it had so many other nights this summer. But Sosa and MacDougal did not suffer the fate of Tavarez and Colome. The new-attitude Nats came through in the clutch. Two nights in a row.
Of the last eight wins, only two (Balester in Milwaukee and Lannan tonight) have come by a starting pitcher.
THE GOOD: Cristian Guzman. He went 3-for-4 with a single, double and triple, and two RBIs. He's 24-for-51 in his last 12 games.
THE BAD: Elijah Dukes. Dude is struggling since his recall. 0-for-3 in the game, 3-for-18 since he was activated Aug. 1.
THE UGLY: Rick VandenHurk. The Florida started threw batting practice for the Nats. Five earned in four innings on seven hits and a walk, with the three home runs.
NEXT GAME: Matinee on Thursday for the season finale. 12:35 pm game time. Craig Stammen (3-6, 4.96) takes on Chris Volstad (8-9, 4.35) in the sunshine.
NOTES: The Nationals traded Anderson Hernandez back to the New York Mets in exchange for minor league 2B Greg Veloz. Veloz entered the season rated among the Mets’ top 25 prospects as listed in Baseball America’s 2009 Prospect Handbook, and has averaged 30 stolen bases in his three professional seasons.