Nationals face old friend John Lannan

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If it’s not already painfully clear, baseball and fate work in mysterious ways. On Monday, the second-place Nationals, 3-3 through this nine-game road trip, open a three-game series against the third-place Phillies in Philadelphia. And who is expected to start for the Phillies?

John Lannan, fresh off the disabled list after being out since April 17, no less.

“It will be weird,” Nationals Manager Davey Johnson said this weekend. “He did a good job coming back and won some big games for us last year. Now he’s going to be pitching a good game against us. I have to not give him a real nice welcome. Maybe we’ll come out of our funk.”

In some ways, it seems so long ago when Lannan was a regular face in the Nationals rotation from 2008 to 2011 and made 122 starts. Lannan was in the Nationals organization since he was drafted in 2005 until he last season. He started opening day for the Nationals twice, posted a career 4.02 ERA over 783 2/3 innings and endured all those losing season.

And when the Nationals finally won last season, they shipped him to Class AAA Syracuse for the year as insurance, calling upon him to make needed spot starts and take Stephen Strasburg’s place in the rotation once he was shut down. He still earned $5 million, but the decision stung the left-hander and he lost a year of service time. Of the lasting memories of Lannan, his seven innings of two-run ball against Atlanta in the second game of the doubleheader July 21 last season with the Nationals’ clinging to division lead on the Braves, may be one of his finest.

The Nationals parted ways with Lannan, non-tendering him because they chose to dip in the free agent pool for another starter. He signed a one-year, $2.5-million, incentive-laden deal with division-rival Philadelphia, and he would pitch in a stadium where he has a career-worst 6.05 ERA in nine starts. He has a 6.14 ERA in three starts for the Phillies and has missed two months with a quad strain near his knee.

“John did a lot for this team and for this organization but when you face someone like that you treat them like any other player,” Ryan Zimmerman said. “We’ve faced a bunch of guys that we played against or we played with. It is what it is.”

The Nationals, at 34-34 and mired in a cycle of .500 baseball, sit only two games ahead of the Phillies in the division standing and trail Atlanta by 6.5 games. Now, they open a crucial series against their heated division rival with their old friend on the mound.

FROM THE POST

Stephen Strasburg’s return isn’t enough to pull the Nationals’ offense out of it slump in 2-0 loss to the Indians.

From the weekend, the order and art of batting practice, explained by Barry Svrluga.

FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL

Denard Span fouls ball off right foot again, snaps slump

Kurt Suzuki’s production since Wilson Ramos’ injury

Ian Krol continues to impress

Stephen Strasburg activated from DL

NATS MINOR LEAGUES

Toledo 8, Syracuse 4: Yunesky Maya allowed four runs on nine hits over six innings. Recent signing Mark Lowe tossed a scoreless inning. Erik Davis allowed four runs on a hit and three walks in 1 1/3 innings. On rehab, Danny Espinosa went 0 for 4 with a walk and two strikeouts. In four games, Espinosa is 2 for 11 with two walks and five strikeouts. Zach Walters went 3 for 4 with two RBI. Tyler Moore went 0 for 4, and is 3 for 19 with 7 RBI in five games.

Harrisburg 5, New Britain 2: Blake Treinen started and allowed only one run on eight hits and walked two over five innings. Aaron Barrett notched his 12th save with 1 1/3 scoreless innings. Brian Goodwin went 3 for 5 and scored two runs. Jimmy Van Ostrand drove in two runs.

Potomac 9, Frederick 8: Robbie Ray started and coughed up six runs on six hits over four innings. Justin Miller hit a three-run home run, Caleb Ramsey went 2 for 5 and Mike Gilmartin went 3 for 5.

Hagerstown 9, Lakewood 6: Matt Purke started and allowed two runs on four hits, walked two and struck out two over 4 2/3 innings. Robert Benincasa notched his 10th save of the season with a scoreless ninth. Pedro Severino drove in two runs, Brandon Miller hit his 13th home run and Tony Renda finished 2 for 4 with two runs scored.

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Denard Span fouls ball off right foot again, snaps slump