In a game that was protested by Washington, the Nationals played with the most conviction they have had in weeks.
After San Diego starter Clayton Richard had retired the Nationals in order in the first half of the first inning, manager Bud Black realized his own mistake. The official line up card had listed Adam Russell, not Clayton Richard as the starting pitcher for the nights game, the only problem was that Russell was not only not on the mound he wasn't even in the same city as he had been demoted to AAA that day. As a result, manager Jim Riggleman declared the Nats were playing the game under protest.
They didn't need it.
For the second start in a row John Lannan looked like the pitcher that made him the clubs best starter in 2008 and 2009. The lefty pitched seven strong innings, scattering seven hits and allowed only one earned run. While Lannan only struck out one batter, he overcame one of his biggest deamons of the season by walking no batters on the night.
The 25-year-old had struggled with his command this season. A pitcher who made a career off of painting corners and making batters chase junk, Lannan has had poor command over his pitches this year, forcing him to make up for missed strikes with pitches over the plate. In 10 starts this season he has a career high 4.20 BB/9, which is terrible, and his 2.91 K/9 is also the worst of his career. While Lannan may be able to live without the strikeouts, he can not live with the walks.
Things are looking up for the lefty, however. He has allowed two or fewer earned runs in his last three starts.
The Nationals bats came out to support Lannan early Friday night. Josh Willingham helped give the Nationals an early lead with a fourth inning three-run homer, and Ian Desmond extended that lead to 4-0 with a solo shot in the seventh inning. While the Nationals only recorded six hits on the night, they managed to score five runs with only eight runners reaching base total.
As you can see the Nationals took control of the game until Matt Capps had a terrible 9th inning.
-Lannan was the most valuable pitcher with .207 WPA
-Willingham was by far the most valuable hitter with a .313 WPA
-Matt Capps escaped with a .030 WPA despite his roller coaster performance, but that's only because he made big outs, despite the fact that he was the one who put himself in the high risk situation.
-Entering the 9th inning the Padres had a 3% chance of winning. At the worst of Matt Capps' performance, they had a 47% chance of winning. That's the opposite of a closers job.