Nationals left-hander John Lannan will make his 17th start Friday night against the Arizona Diamondbacks. He has a 2-1 record with an 0.47 ERA in three career games versus the Snakes.
He is also coming off a quality start at Los Angeles, where he went six innings, allowing only two earned runs on five hits, two walks, two strikeouts and a homer. It was his first win since May 28 and his first quality start since June 2.
Lannan got out of his biggest jam in the fourth inning. Ryan Theriot led off the inning with a single and Andre Ethier followed with a two-run blast to make it 6-2 Nationals. After a flyout by Matt Kemp and a walk to James Loney, Casey Blake smacked an RBI single to cut the Nats' advantage to 6-3.
But then Lannan settled down and got Jamey Carroll to line out to third while Brad Ausmus grounded out to Ryan Zimmerman to end the inning. Lannan managed two more innings, including a 1-2-3 sixth inning.
Lannan said, "I was able to battle. I ran into trouble in the first and the fourth. In my previous couple of starts before getting sent down I wasn't able to get out of those jams. The water gates would open and I wouldn't be able to stop it."
"First inning I got the ground ball double play from Kemp and that was huge. In the fourth inning I gave up a home run and another run but I was able to stop it. I was able to keep the game within reach and keep it under control.
"I need to be able to control my pitches at all times and when I don't, I am going to get hurt. When you don't have a feel for your pitches it is kind of tough to compete. I didn't really have a feel for my pitches all year until I went down to Harrisburg and found it."
Lannan has had a couple of pretty good outings in a row, going 1-0 with a 3.27 ERA in his past two starts.
"I am starting to be able to throw my pitches where I want to. That opens the door to being able to set up pitches. Actually getting guys to hit the ball where you want it and when you want to," Lannan said.
Lannan said he tried to keep his routine as normal as possible, even though he had an extra two days of rest this week.
That meant getting out and throwing more than usual, he said. "I threw a lot. I know we are coming down to the end of the season, but you can get too fresh. I threw a lot in my bullpen the day before the off day to make sure my arm felt as similar as it would as if I was on the five days. I did the same kind of running.
"Mentally, I try not to think about it because the more you sit on the bench the more you start thinking. I just tried to shut my mind off and throw as much as I could without overdoing it."
Local kid Joe Saunders gets the ball for Kirk Gibson. The West Springfield H.S. graduate shut down the Nats with a complete game five-hitter August 3 at Chase Field. Left-handed Saunders, who attended Virginia Tech, is 7-11 with a 4.42 ERA.
This is a big series for the Nats against a below .500 squad, especially after a rough five-game stretch against the Dodgers and Marlins. They need something good to happen with a daunting road trip awaiting them next week against Atlanta and Philadelphia.