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Washington Nationals' manager Davey Johnson is relying on John Lannan, who failed to make the Opening Day rotation, as the Nats try to clinch the NL East pennant in game one of three with the visiting Philadelphia Phillies.
John Lannan has had a rough 2012 campaign, most of it spent in Triple-A Syracuse, where he was sent after a last-minute decision ousted him from the Opening Day rotation. The 27-going-on-28-year-old has made five starts with the Nationals, posting a 4.23 ERA and a 3.65 FIP with 11 BB (3.58 BB/9) and 15 Ks (4.88 K/9) in 27.2 IP. In five years of starting with the Nats, with a slight detour to Double-A in 2010, the '05 11th Round pick had been a big part of the Nationals' rotation over the last couple years and in the few starts he's made in the majors this season he's made significant contributions to the cause of winning the NL East.
Asked about the left-hander having the opportunity to help the Nationals clinch the pennant tonight in the first game of three with the visiting Philadelphia Phillies, Nats' skipper Davey Johnson told reporters this afternoon he thinks it would be great if the two-time Nats' Opening Day starter could get the job done.
"I think it would be perfect if that happened," the 69-year-old Nats' skipper said. "With the year he's been through. He's pitched some big games for us. One of the biggest, he pitched a great game against Atlanta in that doubleheader. But, he was my 10-game winner. He won more games than anybody on my staff last year. He's been the Opening Day starter a couple times here. For him to get a win, clinch the pennant... I think it would be only fitting."
The Nationals failed to clinch the pennant on the road in St. Louis, so they have three games to lock down the NL East now with the Phillies in town to finish out the regular season. The Nats' manager said yesterday he thought it was really, "... better to clinch it at home," and reiterated today that's he's excited about the opportunity to win the pennant in front of the nation's capital's fans. "I like it better here," Johnson said, "It will be more fun here. So we're trying to make it happen."
Lannan, the skipper said, is the right man for the job.
"I think he's handled everything great," Johnson explained, "When he got sent down, he went down there to work on things. And he didn't go down there with his head hung down. He took it as a challenge to get better down there and he certainly came up and pitched some really good gems. So, I think this is going to be fun for him." Lannan's last start, and his fourth win in five outings, was against the same Phillies he faces tonight. Last week in Citizens Bank Park, the left-hander held the Nats' NL East rivals to two runs on five hits in 5.2 IP of an 8-4 win Nationals' win.
Another start like his last outing against the Phillies and the pitcher who was left out on Opening Day and sent to Triple-A will be able to celebrate the first pennant win in the nation's capital in 79 years in the nation's capital, where he thought he should have been all along.
• Here's the Nats' starting lineup:
#Nationals lineup vs. PHI - Werth 9, Harper 8, Zimmerman 5, LaRoche 3, Morse 7, Desmond 6, Espinosa 4, Suzuki 2, Lannan 1— Nationals PR (@NationalsPR) October 1, 2012