Twice before, John Lannan has been at this point, sitting at nine wins with a few starts left to go in the season and a shot to get to double-digit victories for the first time.
As much as sabermetrics have stripped wins of their mythic status for pitchers, hurlers that grew up in the game still attach some significance to them, and after his last win (against the Dodgers on Sept. 5), Lannan admitted it would mean something to him to get to 10 victories.
"It'd be awesome," he said. "I've got a couple starts left here, and I'm going to try as go as deep as I can into ballgames. I want to win every game, but you can't control wins and losses."
That reality has burned Lannan as he's tried to get to No. 10 before. He allowed one earned run in seven innings against the Padres in 2008, but the Nationals scored just one run that night. In 2009, he allowed five earned runs in his last 21 innings. He went 0-2 in those three starts.
This season, by some metrics, has been Lannan's best in the majors. His 3.65 ERA is the lowest of his career, though he's trending toward career highs in walks and hits per nine innings. But he's also two strikeouts away from breaking 100 for the first time since 2008, and for as sturdy as he's been for the Nationals the last four years, he's hoping it pays off in the win column.
Another victory would put him in a rare - if undignified - group of Nationals pitchers. Only five pitchers (Livan Hernandez and Esteban Loaiza in 2005, Ramon Ortiz in 2006, Tim Redding in 2008, Hernandez again in 2010 and Tyler Clippard in 2010) have combined for a total of six double-digit victory seasons. Lannan leads the Nationals in wins this year, and is the only starter from the opening day rotation that still has a chance to make it through the entire season.
Whatever a 10th win means, he's got a chance to grab it tonight against the Marlins.
"I think this year's a little different than the first two years I was stuck at nine," Lannan said on Sept. 5. "Last year, I had a lot of ground to make up, coming back from Double-A. I won like six games in the last (two months of the year). This year has been a good year. I just want to finish strong."