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Posted at 05:05 AM ET, 06/07/2011

Despite loss, John Lannan keeps ‘rolling’ with his sinker


By the time last night’s 13-inning marathon came to its bitter end for the Nationals, John Lannan’s seven sterling innings had been transformed to an afterthought. Lannan had taken a one-hitter into the sixth inning and a shutout into the seventh, and he finishing his day having allowed one run – and Aaron Roward solo homer – on four hits and three walks while tying a career-high six strikeouts.

Lannan surely deserved a better fate last night, but the takeaway is that he has righted his season. Lannan has allowed one earned in 20 innings over his past three starts, lowering his ERA from 5.03 to 3.79, a full fifth of a run lower than his career ERA.

After almost every one of his first 10 starts, Lannan repeated a version of same refrain. He referred to his starts as “a battle,” trying to find the correct feel for his sinker, to convince himself to trust his best, most essential pitch.


On May 21, he allowed six earned runs in six innings at Baltimore. Two days later, he decided he needed to do something out of the ordinary to figure out his sinker. “It’s a pitch I have to have on, so I put more emphasis on making sure that I have it,” he said. “My other pitchers are better based on whether my sinker is there or not.”

And so Lannan threw 80 sinkers in a single bullpen session. In his next start, he held the Padres scoreless for 7 2/3 innings. Then he didn’t allow the Phillies, his nemesis, an earned run in 5 1/3 innings. He ran his streak of innings without an earned run to 20 before Rowand homered to lead off the seventh last night.

“I obviously felt a change after that Padres start, and I’m just rolling with it right now,” Lannan said. “It’s working. I’m just going to keep on doing what I’ve been doing. It basically comes down to the sinker, working it effectively down in the zone. It’s just a trust issue.”

Two more quick point from last night:

>>> The eighth-inning bullpen implosion is the clearest reason the Nationals lost, but the real culprit may have been the Giants bullpen, and what it did to the Nationals’ offense. After the Nationals knocked Tim Lincecum out after the fifth inning, the Giants bullpen did not allow another hit until Wilson Ramos led off the 10th with a single. Overall, the Nationals managed four this and no runs against Giants reliever in eight innings.

>>> Jayson Werth tripped over the mound in foul territory running down a hit in the eighth inning. He crumpled to the ground and was slow to get up. He said he rolled his ankle, but it would be nothing that would put him at risk to not play today. “I’ll be fine,” he said.

FROM THE POST

The Nationals played are the playing their own style of Torture after they lost 5-4 to the Giants in 13 innings.

The Nationals were surprised and delighted to choose Anthony Rendon with the sixth overall pick in the draft, Dave Sheinin writes.

Danny Hultzen was stunned to be taken second by the Mariners, Josh Barr reports.

NATS MINOR LEAGUES

Indianapolis 6, Syracuse 4: Matt Antonelli went 2 for 5 with two doubles. Chris Marrero went 1 for 3 with a home run and a walk. Tom Milone allowed four runs in 6 1/3 innings on eight hits and no walks, striking out nine.

Harrisburg was off.

Frederick 8, Potomac 1: Ryan Zimmerman went 2 for 3 during a rehab assignment.

Greensboro 3, Hagerstown 2: Robbie Ray allowed no runs on one hit and two walks in six innings, striking out nine. Six starts into his career, Ray allowed one earned run in 30 innings, striking out 30 and walking eight. Bryce Harper went 2 for 4 with a homer, his 14th. As he jogged around the bases, Harper blew a kiss at the pitcher.

By  |  05:05 AM ET, 06/07/2011

 
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