Lannan heating up, Phils looming down the stretch

John Lannan is starting to heat up at the right time.

The expected replacement for Stephen Strasburg in the Nationals rotation (once Strasburg is shut down) was named the International League Player of the Week for August 20-26.

Lannan, who has spent nearly this entire season with Triple-A Syracuse, threw a complete-game, three-hit shutout Saturday in a 1-0 win over Gwinnett. The left-hander threw just 87 pitches, walked one and struck out two.

Over his last four starts for Syracuse, Lannan has pitched to a 2.12 ERA and allowed 17 hits over 29 2/3 innings.

Davey Johnson said recently that the Nationals will likely need two regular season starts from another pitcher once Strasburg is shut down. Lannan is set up to be that guy, and given the way he's throwing lately and the success he had with the Nats in his two major league starts this season, he could be a nice addition down the stretch.

Meanwhile, with the trouble that the Nationals have had with the Phillies lately, I think it's important to point out that the Nats play six of their final nine regular season games against their rivals from the City of Brotherly Love.

The Nats open their final road trip of the season by playing three in Philly, then, after playing three games in St. Louis, they close the regular season by hosting the Phillies for three in the nation's capital.

After taking the first two games of the season series with the Phillies, the Nats have gone 3-7 against Charlie Manuel's boys. They were swept in Philadelphia over the weekend, scoring just five runs over the three-game span.

The Nats were happy to play the spoiler role against the Phillies last season, taking six of the final seven games played between the two teams. This time around, it will be the Phillies trying to return the favor.

With the Phillies sitting 16 1/2 games back in the division and 9 1/2 back for the final wild card spot, they don't have a playoff race to drive them over the final five weeks. But as I wrote earlier, one thing that was clear this weekend was that the Phillies took pride in pushing the Nats around a bit.

Even though the Nationals are currently the class of the division, the Phillies also want to make a bit of a statement as this season winds down: We're not going anywhere.

Just as the Nats were geared up for those final few games against their division rivals last season, the Phillies will be ready to try and throw a wrench into the Nationals' postseason plans this year.

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