WASHINGTON (AP) - No matter how well he pitches, no matter how close the game, Washington Nationals left-hander John Lannan simply cannot beat the Philadelphia Phillies.
Despite allowing only two earned runs and one extra-base hit Wednesday night, Lannan lost yet again to Philadelphia, which beat Washington 3-2 behind Roy Halladay's complete game.
Add it all up, and Lannan is now 0-9 in 12 career starts against the Phillies.
``Going against a guy like Halladay, you've got to match him, and I didn't do that,' said Lannan (1-1). ``I won't be happy until we beat them - and I pitch.'
Said Nationals manager Jim Riggleman: ``Hopefully tonight will help him realize that he pitched much better against them. ... Against that club, if you're in there for six or seven innings, you've done a good job. If not for some of that odd stuff that happened, maybe he would go seven innings. There was some odd stuff tonight.'
Here's what Riggleman meant: Shortstop Ian Desmond's two errors in the fourth - including an interference call - led to one run. The Phillies added two in the fifth, including when Lannan hit Ryan Howard on the bottom of his right wrist with the bases loaded.
Howard had X-rays, which showed nothing was broken.
Lannan, though, kept Washington in the game.
``We didn't really blister the ball on him,' Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. ``He did a good job today. We had to scratch and claw for those three runs. It wasn't like we was pounding him.'
All in all, Lannan wasn't bad, but nothing compared to what Halladay produced. If Lannan can't beat the Phillies, Halladay can't lose - well, almost can't - to the Nationals or anyone in the NL East, for that matter. He is now 9-1 against the club over his career, and has won his 11 starts against division opponents since June 2010.
But after giving up two singles across eight shutout innings, Halladay was shaky in the ninth, and the winning run was on base. Suddenly, Manuel was ambling out to the mound.
Pulling his pitcher? Nope. More like a quick chat, to hear Manuel tell it.
``I said: 'Well Roy, here I am,'' Manuel recounted. ``He said: 'I got 'em.' He said: 'I got 'em. I got 'em.'' So Manuel finished off the exchange by telling the righty: ``Well, OK. You got 'em, then.''
Halladay (2-0) certainly did.
Finishing with a flourish, Halladay struck out the game's last two batters with his final six pitches, holding on to throw his first complete game of 2011.
In the ninth, Halladay allowed four hits, including RBI singles by Laynce Nix and Danny Espinosa.
``It may be naive, but I never felt in trouble. I felt like it was just a matter of making good pitches,' said Halladay, who finished with nine strikeouts and two walks. ``There was never like a panic or rush feeling.'
With two on and one out, the two-time Cy Young Award winner fanned pinch-hitter Matt Stairs and Ivan Rodriguez, who argued the game-ending call on Halladay's 123rd pitch at length.
``From where I was at, it looked like he had it all going. He could throw any pitch at any time,' Riggleman said. ``He's the real deal.'
The most worrisome moment for Halladay - and his team - came in the fourth, when half of Espinosa's broken, splintered bat flew directly at the pitcher's head. Halladay ducked out of harm's way at the last instant, and his defense recorded a double play.
``Not scary,' he said. ``Shocking.'
Halladay walked one batter in 15 2-3 innings this season before he issued consecutive free passes to Desmond and Rick Ankiel in the third. But ex-Phillies outfielder Jayson Werth - booed by large batches of Philadelphia fans each time he strode to the plate - grounded out to end the inning.
The last time Halladay walked two batters in a row also came against the Nationals, on Aug. 20 last season, when Adam Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman drew bases on balls in the first inning.
After Adam LaRoche's second hit, leading off the fourth, Halladay retired 14 of 15 batters.
``He did what he always does,' LaRoche said. ``He's around the zone, a ton of strikes. That being said, not a lot over the heart of the plate.'
Then came the ninth, when Ankiel led off with a double, and Werth singled, putting runners at the corners. After LaRoche struck out, Nix singled to right, ending Halladay's scoreless streak against Washington after 30 innings. Espinosa then scored another with an infield single.
With Jose Contreras warming up in the bullpen, Manuel went out for a visit, but left Halladay in.
``You feel you should clean it up on your own,' Halladay said, ``instead of bringing someone else in.'
NOTES: Wednesday was the second anniversary of the death of Phillies announcer Harry Kalas, who collapsed in the broadcast booth at Nationals Park before a game on April 13, 2009. ``We lost a tremendous person. He was a face for the Phillies - a voice. He'd been around a long time. He was very popular and well-liked,' Manuel said. ``He was good for Philadelphia, he was good for the Phillies, and he was good for baseball.'
The Associated Press News Service
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