NEW YORK — For the years before this one, the Washington Nationals provided ample motivation to ignore them. And so some of the folks pining Wednesday night for Stephen Strasburg may not have recognized the tall left-hander standing on the Citi Field mound, black hair sprouting from under his cap. They may not have realized what John Lannan has done, the two opening day starts or the 200-inning season. They may have learned that the Nationals are not replacing their shelved ace with an empty uniform, but rather an accomplished major leaguer with a bat-deadening sinker and, after a year in the minors, something to prove.
Strasburg’s spot in the rotation came up for the first time since the Nationals shut him down for the season, and Lannan made the moment sting a little less. In the Nationals’ 2-0 victory over the New York Mets, Lannan fired 52 / 3 scoreless innings on five hits, all singles, and one walk. His fastball hovered in the low-90s, not near triple digits. His breaking ball kept batters honest rather than buckling their knees. Lannan still delivered results like an ace.