Good, Bad & Ugly: Joel Hanrahan's Gaffe Sends Nationals to Another Loss

Dave Nichols@@DaveNicholsDSPSenior Analyst IMay 21, 2009

WASHINGTON - APRIL 20:  Joel Hanrahan #38 of the Washington Nationals pitches against the Atlanta Braves at Nationals Park on April 20, 2009 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

"I'm tired of talking about losses, period. You can only say the same thing over and over and over before you get fed up with it, and that's kind of what's going on right now."

--Adam Dunn, May 21, 2009

The Result
A 2-2 slider in the dirt from closer Joel Hanrahan got past catcher Wil Nieves, allowing Freddy Sanchez to scramble home from third with the winning run in the top of the ninth inning, as the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Washington Nationals for the third straight game last night, before 17,854 at Nationals Park.
Hanrahan (L, 0-2, 6.87), called into the game when it was tied at one, was awful again. He allowed three hits and a walk in one inning, needing 35 pitches to get through the disaster.
The Nats' fates were sealed in the bottom half of the ninth, when Nieves hit into a double play and Josh Willingham's fly ball came to rest in center fielder Nate McLouth's glove, about a foot from the top of the wall—some 402 feet from home plate.
The end-game gaffe put an ugly stamp on an otherwise tight, entertaining game. Starter John Lannan went seven full innings and allowed just one earned run on seven hits and two walks. He struck out five and hit one batter. Ron Villone followed him and contributed a scoreless inning with a K.
The Nats got their run in the fifth off Pirates starter Paul Maholm. Cristian Guzman hit a one-out triple and scored on a Nick Johnson line drive single to center. Johnson later stole second base for his first steal of the season, but he was stranded.
Reliever John Grabow (2-0) got the win and Matt Capps recorded his eighth save of the season.

The Takeaway
Hanrahan has to start throwing his fastball more. He was touching 97 on the stadium gun last night, and someone has to tell him that he can't get beaten on his second-best pitch. He is pitching afraid of contact, constantly throwing that slider in the dirt, and it's a recipe for continuing disaster—especially with men on base.
Joel: Throw the fastball. It's your best pitch.

The Good
That's the John Lannan we've come to expect—not overpowering, but hitting his spots, and keeping his team in the game. Unfortunately, as has been the case for the last season and a half, he got no run support.
Ryan Zimmerman went 1-for-4, extending his consecutive on-base streak to 38 games.

The Bad
Dunn, Belliard, Maxwell, Nieves: all hitless. The Nats got nothing out of the bottom of the order.

The Ugly
Another ninth inning meltdown. The bullpen is now 1-15.

Next Game
The Nats have one more against the Pirates. Craig Stammen makes his major league debut against Ian Snell (1-5, 4.93) at 7:05 pm.

Roster Note
Reliever Garrett Mock will be sent down to Triple-A Syracuse to make room for Stammen. Mock was 0-2 with a 6.92 ERA in 13 games. He struck out six and walked eight in 13 innings pitched.