Tracee Hamilton - Sports Columnist

John Lannan May Not Be an Ace Yet, but He's Certainly the Nationals' Trump Card

John Lannan is 4-0 in his last six starts, with all four wins ending Nats losing streaks. He hasn't allowed more than three runs in a game since May 25.
John Lannan is 4-0 in his last six starts, with all four wins ending Nats losing streaks. He hasn't allowed more than three runs in a game since May 25. (By Karl Merton Ferron -- Baltimore Sun)
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By Tracee Hamilton
Thursday, July 9, 2009

Is John Lannan the Nationals' ace? Lannan starts laughing even before the question is complete.

"I don't consider myself the ace at all," he said.

Okay, so define an ace for us, John.

"The ace of the ballclub is the guy who goes out there every five days and goes deep in ballgames and helps the team win every time he goes out."

At the next locker, Ross Detwiler mutters under his breath. What's that, Ross?

"Sounds like John Lannan to me," he says, grinning, as Craig Stammen nods in agreement.

Lannan shakes his head sheepishly. The previous night, he had taken the mound after five days, gone deep in the ballgame and given his team the chance to win. The Nats responded with an eighth-inning rally and a 5-3 victory over the Braves that ended a four-game losing streak.

That's rapidly becoming a specialty for Lannan (6-5), whose next start is tonight in Houston. Perhaps ending losing streaks is not much of a challenge on a team that loses as often as the Nats, but if a four-game losing streak is demoralizing, a nine-game streak would be devastating.

So, Manny Acta, John Lannan says he's not your ace. What do you say?

"Yeah, I feel the same way," Acta said. "We don't have any ace. . . . He's our number one guy right now, but he's no ace and I'm glad he feels that way.

"Aces are [Roy] Halladay, [Johan] Santana, [CC] Sabathia and those guys. Overpowering guys that have the track record and that every year people are forecasting them to win 20 games. He's not in that category yet."

Fair enough. Lannan, after all, is just 24. He's started just 54 games. He is steadily lowering his ERA, from 18.00 after his Opening Day loss to 3.45, but there's room for improvement. The season was nearly at the halfway mark before his record got above .500.


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