John Lannan was not in the clubhouse on Friday night following a scary incident in which a sharply hit ball off the bat of Colorado’s Ty Wigginton struck the Nationals starter in the nose in the fourth inning. The left-hander instead had left for further evaluation after a 3-2 loss that dropped the Nationals to .500, but coaches and teammates couldn’t help but be thankful the injury wasn’t more severe.
Lannan had been in command into the fourth inning, striking out five and allowing just two balls out of the infield in what had the makings of perhaps his best start of the season. Then Wigginton stepped to the plate with one out, and moments later, Lannan crumpled to the mound on all fours.
Lannan put his glove over his face, and blood appeared to be coming out of his nose. He wasted no time walking off the mound and heading toward the dugout accompanied by trainer Lee Kuntz and Nationals coaches.
“He’s doing pretty good,” Manager Davey Johnson said. “He’s talking, and he’s over the shock of getting smoked pretty good. It’s actually a miracle. I don’t know how he didn’t break a nose.”
The Nationals officially called the injury a nasal contusion, and because the all-star break begins on Monday, Lannan may not miss a start, Johnson said. It’s a good thing, too, because Lannan has become among the Nationals’ most dependable starters since he last lost on May 21.
Over his past eight starts before tonight, Lannan was 3-0 with a 1.92 ERA, and the success has come thanks to his preferred approach of inducing groundball outs. His groundball percentage of 67.5 this season is tied for the best mark of his career, and he is tied for the National League lead with 16 double-play grounders.
“It’s definitely difficult,” reliever Ryan Mattheus, who replaced Lannan, said of watching his teammate get hit. “It’s scary. It’s something none of us wants to see. You don’t ever want that to happen to us either. We just hope he’s all right, and I think he’s going to be okay.”