Sunday, May 18, 2008

Nats Beat O's, 2-1

Baltimore, Md. -- Mired in a two game losing streak and at risk to be swept by the surprising Baltimore Orioles, the Washington Nationals needed someone to act as a stopper.

They found it in rookie pitcher John Lannan.

The young southpaw, who had struggled last week against the New York Mets, looked absolutely brilliant against their American League rivals on Sunday.

He was locked in a pitching duel with Baltimore right-hander, Jeremy Guthrie for much of the game; however, Lannan emerged victorious by shutting down a Baltimore offense that has been pulling magic tricks out of a black cap to start off action four games over .500.

The rookie was bolstered by Cristian Guzman’s two hits – one which was a solo homer, and Ryan Zimmerman’s late RBI, as Washington defeated Baltimore, 2-1, in front of a crowd of 33,745 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Their win snapped the Baltimore Orioles four game winning streak.

For seven innings, Lannan absolutely stymied the Orioles as he only allowed five hits and pretty much kept them off the base paths until late in the game.

Before today’s game in Charm City, heavy and winds whipped through the region, and the action was pushed back thanks to a lengthy rain delay which was two hours long.

To add insult to injury, those in attendance had to endure yet another delay about 25 minutes in length during the eighth inning.

Needless to say, a game that was clocked at a little under two-and-half hours felt like it went on for about twelve.

Washington got on the scoreboard in the third inning as Cristian Guzman hit his fourth home run – a solo shot -- which landed a few rows over the wall in right centerfield.

The Nationals, who were up by only one run in the seventh inning, tried to get aggressive but were undone by the rocket arm of Baltimore’s young outfielder, Nick Markakis.

With two outs in the frame, Washington’s catcher, Wil Nieves singled to right and Elijah Dukes, who was on second, ran hard to the plate and tried to score; however, Markakis’ throw hit the glove of Baltimore catcher Quillermo Guiroz and nailed Dukes at the plate.

Although it looked like Dukes might have been safe, the call by the umpire was uncontested and the top half of the inning ended with the Nationals up by one.

In the eighth inning, Washington added an important insurance run and took a 2-0 lead. Felipe Lopez started the frame off by doubling off Baltimore reliever Chad Bradford; thereafter, Guzman moved Lopez to third with a sacrifice bunt placed perfectly down the first base line.

A batter later, Ryan Zimmerman hit a double down the right field line to drive in Felipe Lopez, but Lastings Milledge grounded into a double play to end to the rally for the Nationals.

The Orioles scored in the eighth inning – only after enduring another rain delay, which was about 25 minutes in length. Before the rain delay, Adam Jones singled to center, and then Luke Scott, who came in as a pinch hitter, doubled.

The grey skies overhead soon broke out in a brief, but heavy rain; thereafter, the sun peeked out, and the sky was blue with clouds.

Once play resumed with one out in the frame, Brian Roberts hit a deep sacrifice fly to center and that enabled Jones to cross home plate give Baltimore their first run; however, the inning came to a sudden end as Melvin Mora lined out to Elijah Dukes in right center field.

Baltimore’s Jamie Walker pitched a scoreless top of the ninth inning; meanwhile, Washington close Jon Rauch pitched an uneventful bottom of the frame for his tenth save.

Lannan earned his fourth win of the season as he struck out five and walked one by missing up his pitches and using pin-point control; meanwhile, Jeremy Guthrie – who is far better than his record indicates -- lost his fourth game of the season by going seven innings and allowing a single run – Guzman’s homer.

With the win on Sunday, the Nationals were able to salvage a win in the series as they head back home for a three game set against the Philadelphia Phillies that begins on Monday.

Washington is 19-26, and remains in last place in the National League East by six games.

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