Nationals left-hander John Lannan (8-7, 4.61) is looking for his ninth win of the season as he takes to the mound tonight against the Houston Astros.
If he can secure the victory tonight at Nats Park, it will mark the third consecutive campaign in which he has won nine games in a season for Washington.
Lannan has experienced an incredible surge the last half of the season after struggling out of the blocks.
Since August 6, Lannan has won six of eight starts and has struck out 19 batters in his last three outings.
Lannan has gained back a lot of confidence since his demotion to Harrisburg earlier in the year.
"I feel pretty good about the last two months. Work is never done, though. I am still going out there and working every day. I am trying to get myself better. There is always room for improvement. I have just been able to come up here and pitch well every five days," Lannan said.
He says one of the reasons he has excelled recently is preventing a big inning. A solo homer or an early RBI hasn't altered his concentration to get the next hitter out.
"If I give up a hit or two hits I know that I can still get out of a jam by just making one pitch," he said.
"Whatever happened in the past you can't control. You just have to make that next pitch. That is what I have been concentrating on."
We hear a lot about how hitters got out of slumps by just going out and hitting and not thinking too much. Lannan says that can happen to pitchers sometimes when they get into some trouble.
"That is what takes you to the next level. I thought this year I could take it to the next level by trying a little harder and that obviously didn't work. What I did was I reevaluated what kind of pitcher I was and what my strengths were and now I am confident in what I have, and what I have working is going to be good enough."
So does Lannan ever let the possibility of his first ever double digit win season enter into his mind? Lannan says looking at statistics can be done after October 3.
"This season has been a really long season. I am just trying to end strong. I am not too worried about numbers. In the long scheme of things it doesn't really matter what happens in these next two starts. I am going to come in strong in 2011 anyway and I will really work hard to have a good season from start to finish."
But Lannan still has a shot at 10 wins this season, which would be a career high, and he would join Livan Hernandez on the staff with double digit victories. He could get that tenth win in New York as well, minutes from his home, during the final weekend series at Citi Field.
But first things first for Lannan: a win tonight would guarantee at least a .500 record for the season and help the Nats out of a rough start to the week.