Hoping things will start to turn, Nats get a look at Lannan

Looks like things didn’t change all that much while I was away for the last few days.

The Nationals picked up a dramatic win over the Indians on Saturday, plating seven runs and getting a huge ninth-inning, game-winning homer from the red-hot Anthony Rendon.

You think maybe things will start to turn for the Nats, that they’ll be able to ride a little momentum and start stringing together a few games of strong offensive production.

Then they’re shut out by the Indians yesterday, going 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position and thrice failing to score when putting at least the first two batters of an inning on base. There goes any of that momentum again.

With the loss, the Nats dropped back to .500, which has been familiar territory over the last month.

In their three-game series in Cleveland, the Nats went 2-for-19 with runners in scoring position and scored one run in their two losses. They’re now averaging just 3.49 runs per game this season, a total that is next-to-last in the majors, behind only the lowly Marlins.

What can be done to fix the consistent offensive issues? Bryce Harper’s eventual return (which might happen sometime late in the week, if all goes well) will provide a boost, but it goes well beyond that.

Having guys reach base at a higher clip sure wouldn’t hurt, given that the Nats have a team on-base percentage of .292 this season. Getting some production in key situations would be nice, given that the Nats are batting just .205 with runners in scoring position and two outs.

The Nats have the seventh-best team ERA in the majors, and their starting pitching has been really solid, for the most part. But you can’t win games when you don’t score runs, and right now, the Nats aren’t doing a whole lot of that.

They’ll take their hacks tonight against a very familiar face, one that has been seen on the mound at Nationals Park quite a bit over the last seven years.

Old friend John Lannan will get the ball against the Nats tonight, making his first start for the Phillies since a knee injury sidelined him just three starts into the season.

Lannan hasn’t had much of a chance to show his stuff since signing a one-year, $2.5 million deal with Philadelphia this offeason, but his first two starts with the Phillies were strong ones. He allowed four runs in 13 innings over those two outings, striking out seven and walking one.

The left-hander probably has been looking forward to this day for much of the last eight or nine months, and possibly more. Lannan was drafted by the Nats in 2005 and twice got an opening day start for the Nationals over his six years in D.C. But last season, he was bumped out of the starting rotation just before opening day and found himself pitching at Triple-A Syracuse for much of the season.

Lannan was non-tendered by the Nats after the 2012 campaign, giving the 28-year-old a clean break and a chance to prove himself elsewhere. He didn’t go far, moving just a couple hours up Interstate 95 and staying within the division.

Tonight’s game will probably be pretty special for Lannan because he’ll get a chance to stick it to his former team and push the Nats back below .500. For the Nats, however, there are far more important things than the reunion with Lannan.

This team needs to find a way to start putting together some consistent offense, and it needs to find it soon. We’re mid-way into June at this point. It’s no longer early in the season and the margin for error the rest of the way is shrinking. The Nats keep saying they feel confident their level of talent will express itself soon enough.

Now’s as good a time as any.

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