Long Beach, NY-born, Siena College-educated left-hander John Lannan threw 7.2 scoreless innings in the Washington Nationals' May 27th 2-1 win over San Diego, limiting the Padres to just two hits and inducing 14 groundouts from their batters. Drew Storen replaced Lannan with two down in the top of the eighth, after the left-hander had allowed a single and a two-out walk in a 1-0 game. The Nats' closer struck Chris Denorfia out to end the top of the frame, but surrendered a solo HR to the first batter he faced in the ninth for what was then his first blown save of the season. Michael Morse's leadoff walk-off in the bottom of the ninth gave Storen the win, but it was Lannan's strong outing with just one run of support before the winner that helped the Nats break what was then a five-game losing streak at the end of a 1-7 road trip.
"We hung in there, we battled, John Lannan was outstanding," Jim Riggleman said in the post game press conference following the win. "We say a lot of times, when you see ground balls going to short and third, that's his game. When he's doing that, that means the ball is usually sinking pretty good for him, he's got a good changeup going for him, which results in pulled ground balls from right-handed hitters, and I think that's what he had going." Lannan had entered the May 27th start in the midst of a four game losing streak which stretched over six starts in which Washington was 2-4 with the 26-year-old left-hander on the mound.
Before Lannan's 7.2 scoreless that day, the '05 11th Round pick had allowed 28 hits, nine walks and 16 runs combined in his previous four outings, allowing six runs twice and only once getting double-digit groundouts from the opposing team's hitters. Lannan's (2-0) in his last four starts with the Nationals 3-1, and he's recorded double-digit groundouts in each of the four starts, allowing just five runs, four earned and three of them on HR's for a 1.40 ERA (4.99 FIP) over the last 25.2 IP.
The left-hander's walked (10) as many as he's K'd over the last four starts, but he's held opposing hitters to a .211 AVG and a .207 BABIP after they'd hit .275 off Lannan in each of the first two months of the season with .300 and .318 BABIPs, respectively, in each of first two months. A 1.52 GB/FB ratio in May is up to 2.14 in June, his GB% is up from 45.2 to 57.3%. The 48 ground balls he's induced in four June starts are the fourth-most in baseball.
Lannan's allowed two runs or less in each of his last five starts, going (2-0) with a 1.08 ERA in the five outings that started with his losing-streak-stopping effort on May 27th. Last time out, Lannan put together a 7.0 inning outing against the Cardinals in which he gave up six hits, one HR and two earned runs total. His last start was the first one in which he'd allowed more than one run in four starts. Lannan got 15 ground ball outs from the St. Louis' batters, two of them double play grounders. 51 of the 86 pitches he threw were fastballs, 56 of the 86 were strikes.
The left-hander's confident, he's getting the ground balls he needs to, and he's won four-straight at home heading into tonight's start. It's enough to make you forget that he had to go down to Double-A last season in order to rediscover the form that allowed him to get this far as a starter. The more ground balls the better, and preferably to the left side of the infield.