Letdown for Lannan, as Nats fall

Letdown for Lannan, as Nats fall

WASHINGTON -- Less than a week after pitching one of his best games of the season, John Lannan had sort of a letdown on Saturday, as the Nationals were edged by the Brewers, 5-2, at Nationals Park.

Unlike the game against the Orioles, in which he pitched 7 1/3 innings and gave up a run on four hits, Lannan couldn't establish his fastball and throw it at any count.

"I wasn't really commanding it on the outside part of the plate," Lannan said. "I had a tough time going inside. I did have my changeup today. It helped out a little bit. The fastball wasn't really there for me."

The game was scoreless after three innings, but Lannan gave up a two-run homer to Corey Hart in the fourth inning. In the top of the fifth, a balk ended up hurting Lannan.

After singling to left, Bill Hall advanced to second on a sacrifice by right-hander Seth McClung. Lannan was then thinking about picking off Hall at second, but Lannan ended up balking, which allowed Hall to advance to third. After Jason Kendall was hit by a pitch, Rickie Weeks hit a sacrifice fly to send Hall home.

Even though Lannan wasn't at his best on the mound, one will not hear any complaints from manager Manny Acta, who feels his pitchers have to do more than usual because the team is not scoring enough this season.

"I think he battled for us," Acta said. "He made a couple of mistakes. He hung that breaking ball to Hart and the balk hurt him. He battled for us. He gave us a chance. The way we are swinging the bat and scoring runs, obviously, it puts a little pressure on these guys because you have to try to shut out the opposition."

Lannan said he doesn't feel pressured by the lack of offense behind him. He is more worried about shutting out the opponent for nine innings.

"I just have to go out there and do my job," Lannan said. "I have to throw up zeroes no matter what. Before I go out there, [I'm thinking I'm going to throw] nine innings, a shutout. The hitting will come around. There are always spots of it. You really don't think about it much."

Washington made it a game, however, in the bottom of the sixth inning. Lastings Milledge led off by hitting a home run. It was Milledge's second home run of the season, but first since March 31 against the Phillies.

With one out, Elijah Dukes singled to left and then went to second on a wild pitch. Wil Nieves followed and doubled to right field to score Dukes.

But with Joel Hanrahan on the mound, the Brewers padded the lead when J.J. Hardy came home on a double by Kendall.

In the eighth, Mike Cameron gave Milwaukee some more cushion as he took a Jesus Colome pitch and hit the ball over the left-center-field wall.

The Nationals had a chance to make the game even closer. Thanks to two errors by Hall at third base in the ninth inning, Washington had runners on first and third with one out with Salomon Torres on the mound, but the team couldn't take advantage of the situation.

Dukes struck out swinging and pinch-hitter Aaron Boone struck out looking to end the game.

The offense has been a disappointment thus far. They are at or near the bottom of almost every offensive category.

"We are not playing against ourselves," Dukes said. "Give or take, the opposition studies us, too. They are probably more prepared than us, more so than not getting the job done. We play to win. The opposition probably studied us a little bit better than we thought. We just have to make the adjustment."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.