Washington had been outscored by nine runs in a three-game losing streak which featured a game where the Nats blew a nine-run lead. Lannan allowed two runs in the first inning, and it looked like the Nats would lose their fourth straight game.
Then, Lannan recovered. The longtime National didn't allow another run, and pitched seven innings, recording his first win of the season. Thanks to some late run support and some good pitching by Lannan, Washington triumphed 5-2 and took a 2.5 game lead in the NL East.
In the first inning, Lannan made some mistakes. He left a few pitches too far over the plate, and that's how the Braves took the lead. Lannan made a few more mistakes, and he allowed five hits on the night. However, Lannan no-hit the Braves through the last 4.1 innings, and he started to strike hitters out.
Lannan got ahead of the count and was able to get hitters out by placing his fastball on the corners and jamming hitters. He struck out two hitters in the seventh inning, even though he only retired three batters on strikes during the game.
In his career, Lannan averages 4.71 strikeouts per nine innings. He has a 1.42 career WHIP, which is also a problem. Lannan allows a lot of hits, and he also walks a lot of batters. Opponents have a career .340 OBP against him, which has been a major factor in his career 4.00 ERA.
However, manager Davey Johnson and GM Mike Rizzo were probably impressed by Lannan's performance. The former ace went 6-8 with a 4.60 ERA in Triple-A Syracuse this year, which isn't very encouraging. However, thanks to Lannan's performance today, the Nats will be confident that they don't need to trade for a starting pitcher.
And that's not the case at all.
Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports that the Nationals are one of the frontrunners in the Ryan Dempster sweepstakes. If the Nationals traded for Ryan Dempster and shut down Stephen Strasburg (which it looks like they will do), they would have Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Ross Detwiler, Dempster and Edwin Jackson in their rotation.
If they didn't trade for Dempster, they would have the inconsistent Lannan instead of the consistent Dempster, who happens to own the best ERA in baseball (2.11).
Washington is in the middle of a heated playoff race, and they seem to be good enough to make a deep playoff run. However, if the team shuts down Strasburg, they would have three inconsistent starters in their rotation, and two would have to pitch in the playoffs.
Lannan had a great start, and he came through with lots of pressure on him to bring the Nationals a key win. However, he is nothing more than a middle-to-back-of-the-rotation starter, and Washington can't have someone who allows opponents to hit .272 pitching in a playoff race.
Unless Lannan can show the ability to pitch well at the start of a game, keep the ball away from the middle of the plate and miss bats consistently, he won't be a guy Nationals fans will want in their playoff rotation. If the Nationals' front office were convinced by this start, they may avoid unloading the farm to trade for a pitcher, and they would keep Lannan in the rotation.
With Lannan in the rotation bad things may happen for the Nationals. Including losing early in the playoffs, or missing them altogether.