When John Lannan was sent to the minors way back in March he didn’t take it well. He sent an e-mail to all of the Nats beat reporters demanding a trade. The Nats didn’t trade him because as Mike Rizzo told Lannan, “You will pitch important innings in the big leagues this season.” With Strasburg now shutdown the Nats need Lannan and will lean on Lannan down the stretch.
For most of the season John Lannan pitched at AAA Syracuse where he put up a 4.30 ERA in route to a 9-11 record. It has to be remembered that Lannan got off to a bad start in AAA and that he is a ground ball pitcher and the major league Washington Nationals have a gold glove infield. The less range of the AAA infielders can’t be a help to a contact pitcher like John Lannan.
It had to be shocking for Lannan to have been sent to the minors. He has twice started Opening day for the Nationals and from 2008-2010 he was the only competent regular starter in the rotation. The Nationals got glimpses of Zimmermann and Strasburg in those seasons, but neither was in the rotation full time. When it came to starters that belonged in the big leagues Lannan was all the Nationals had.
Having a back of the rotation starter as the team Ace isn’t good and it is a big part of the reason why the Nationals lost 100 games in back to back seasons, but Lannan was and is a big league pitcher. That is why it had to come as a shock to him that he was being sent down. He had down a lot for the Nationals franchise, but the simple fact was he was the sixth most talented pitcher on the roster, and there simply wasn’t a spot for him.
Aside from the time Lannan has spent in AAA he has made three big league starts so far this season, and none may have been bigger than his first. On a Friday evening the Nats were cruising into the fifth inning with a 9-0 lead over the Atlanta Braves. By the time the game was over the Nats were shocked as they left the field 11-10 losers in 11 innings. They had somehow managed to blow a nine run lead to the team chasing them for the division crown.
The next day was a double-header to make up for a previous rain-out. In the first game Ben Sheets owned the Nationals hitters and threw a shutout. To this day the hours before John Lannan’s start remain the lowest for Nationals fans. There was a feeling of this is it, and this is when the Braves catch us. With the division lead having fallen to just 1.5 games and the danger that the Braves could leave town with a 0.5 game lead in the division few Nats fans felt that John Lannan could protect the division lead.
And when the Braves scored two first inning runs it looked like John Lannan and the Nats were in for a long night, but those were the only runs the Nats allowed, and that 5-2 victory over the Braves started a six game winning streak for the Nationals and helped them to build the lead back up to 5.0 games.
It has been a long season for John Lannan, but he has been an important member of the Washington Nationals. Even if he is a seldom seen one. In his first start in place of Stephen Strasburg Lannan was able to pitch just enough innings and give up few enough runs to lead the Nats to a 2-0 win over the Mets. John Lannan has made three starts on the season and the Nats have won all of them. Lannan has three more schedules starts on the season, and with a magic number of 11 and a division lead of 8.5 he doesn’t have to do much to help protect it, but what he has done on the season shouldn’t be forgotten.
John Lannan was there when the Nationals were poor, and as much as Ryan Zimmerman he deserves to enjoy the winning. For most of the season he was unable to do that slaving away in AAA, but he is here now and has a chance to leave his mark on the 2012 Washington Nationals season, which has a good chance to be his last.