Hanson faults lack of fastball command in loss

WASHINGTON -- Tommy Hanson had to figure Saturday was not his day, when the best part of his outing came with hail falling, just moments before umpires halted his first start of 2011 after 3 2/3 innings.

Hanson had two strikes on Jayson Werth and was the closest to getting him out he had been all day. Hanson had allowed two doubles to Werth, including one to start the decisive three-run third inning in the Braves’ 6-3 loss to the Nationals.

“White hail. I’m sure he couldn’t see the ball, and it was blowing in his face,” Hanson said. “He kept stepping out. I was good. I could have kept pitching.”

As it was, reliever Cristhian Martinez had to finish the Werth at-bat 55 minutes later, after the weather delay, giving up an infield hit. Hanson was left to decipher what happened to his fastball command in a four-run (three earned) outing.

Former Brave Rick Ankiel made it hurt the most, after Hanson fell behind him 2-1 and then watched Ankiel send a fat fastball into the right-field seats.

That two-run shot put the Nationals up 4-1 in the third inning, a deficit the Braves couldn’t overcome.

Hanson threw only 38 of his 68 pitches for strikes. He walked the pitcher John Lannan in the second inning after being ahead of him 1-2. A leadoff walk cost Hanson a run in that inning, as did the pitch that hit Ryan Zimmerman with a runner on and nobody out in the third.

“Part of me was trying to be too fine,” Hanson said. “And once I realized that wasn’t working and I was throwing balls, then I was opening up the plate. My fastballs were catching way too much of the plate.”

Hanson didn’t face major league hitters in his last two outings of spring training because he needed an extra two days off to rest a sore back and fell out of the regular rotation. He made his last two outings in a minor league game and then the indoor cages. But he didn’t want to blame that, and he said his back is fine.

“I know what you’re saying, but I don’t know,” said Hanson, when asked about his last two starts of the spring. “I don’t want to make any excuses. I feel like I could have thrown a lot better.”

He lost his first start of the season for the third consecutive year. He lost his major league debut to the Brewers in 2009, giving up seven runs (six earned) in six innings. He lost 2-0 to the Cubs last April 8 on two solo home runs.

Including Ankiel’s home run Saturday, Hanson has allowed six home runs in those three starts combined and only 18 home runs in his 53 other major league starts.

But what that tells Hanson is that he has been through it enough not to panic. And that was the point he made after conceding to shoddy command.

“All that being said, I’m obviously not worried about it,” Hanson said. “It’s my first start. I know I can pitch better than that. Just going to chalk it up to one of those days, just work hard in my next ’pen, get my fastball command, staying down in the zone, and hope to go out and do better next time.”