In his last seven trips to the mound, including two starts against the Philadelphia Phillies he faces tonight, John Lannan is (1-6). That, of course, follows a stretch of seven starts in which the 26-year-old left-hander was (3-2) with the Nationals (5-2) in games that he'd started. Some of the differences? In seven starts from July 2-August 7th, Washington scored 32 runs in games Lannan started. From August 13-September 16th, the Nationals scored 15 runs in games in which Lannan pitched, seven of those runs coming in the one win in Lannan's last seven outings.
In 40.2 IP in the first stretch from early July to early August, the left-hander gave up 37 hits, 18 runs, 17 earned, 17 walks and two HR's. In 34.2 IP between August 13th through his last start on the 16th of September, Lannan's surrendered 47 hits, 27 runs, 16 of them earned, 18 walks and five HR's. In the first stretch the lefty K'd 31 (6.86 K/9), in the second 16 (4.15 K/9). A .243/.324/.349 slash against went up to .313/.388/.468 with a .325 BABIP up from .294. The Nationals also commited 10 errors (two by Lannan himself) in the more-recent/less successful stretch after having made just two total in the previous seven games when Lannan was getting better results. Put simply, it's not all Lannan's fault.
Still, Nats' Skipper Davey Johnson, when asked after last Friday's 3-0 loss to Florida, about his starter's recent struggles, said it was a little disappointing that Lannan's season was ending the way it was. "We all expect a lot out of him," Johnson said. "He's got good stuff, he's pitched out of some jams, making quality pitches. In this league, occasionally, if you leave [a pitch] out over the plate and up, you're going to get hit, and you know, he gave up three runs in 6.0 innings to a pretty good hitting ballclub, but we didn't give him too much help."
Lannan put much of the blame on himself, telling reporters after he'd walked three and given up eight hits to the Marlins. "Just tonight, I didn't have any location," the left-hander said, "I was missing spots pretty bad. Going in I wasn't getting the ball in, going down and away I was leaving it over the plate."
"I like it when he's using that sinker and not trying to overthrow it," Davey Johnson said, "He gets a lot of ground balls, and when you see line drives to the outfield or whatever, the fastball's up. But he's had great stuff." Asked if he thinks Lannan needs to finish strong to end the season on a good note, Johnson didn't seem too concerned about the mental aspect of the starter's struggles.
"I think he'll be fine," Johnson responded, "He's a competitor, loves to compete, nothing seems to bother him too bad. He can be real good at times," but the Nationals' manager thinks Lannan tends to overthrow at times and "put a little extra on it" and leaves the ball up in the zone when he does. "It works both ways, sometimes it can really help you and you make good pitches with even better stuff, but a couple pitches I think he had had hit were [when] he got ahead and then left one up, got a big part of the plate."
Tonight Lannan faces the Philadelphia Phillies, against whom the left-hander's (1-12) in 16 career starts. Though he managed to get his first win against the Nationals' NL East rivals earlier this season, he still hasn't won a game in Citizens Bank Park (in six tries) and hasn't fared too well the in his last two outings against the Phillies. Can the Nationals recent momentum carry Lannan to a win, or will his recent struggles play a part in ending the Nats' win streak?