Results tagged ‘ John Lannan ’

The Ballad of John Lannan

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

Perhaps the toughest personnel decision the Nationals faced all year long came well before the national spotlight shined upon their impressive run towards October baseball. Way back on March 31, after the Nationals finished their final exhibition game against the Boston Red Sox, manager Davey Johnson announced to the local press corps that the team had made the decision to keep hard-throwing lefty Ross Detwiler as the fifth starter in the rotation. With a top four that featured Gio Gonzalez, Edwin Jackson, Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann, that meant that John Lannan, the club’s Opening Day starter in both 2009 and 2010, was the odd man out. The man who led the team in wins the year prior would open the season at Triple-A Syracuse.

“It was definitely tough for him going down to Syracuse after being the Opening Day starter here two years in a row,” said Nationals outfielder Corey Brown, who played with Lannan much of the season with the Chiefs.

Amidst a trying season, Lannan delivered one of the Nationals biggest victories all year.

Lannan did not respond well at first to his new assignment. He gave up five runs in just two innings of work in his first start. While things slowly got better from there, he was still plagued by inconsistencies. But he put his head down and pushed forward, grinding through the long bus rides and small, sometimes rundown ballparks that are a way of life in the minors. When the Nationals faced a dire situation – needing an extra starter in a crucial July series against Atlanta – they called upon Lannan’s services for the first time. He watched the team build a 9-0 lead, only to let it slip away in an 11-10 series opening loss. The next day, the Nationals were shut out in the opening game of the doubleheader, cutting their division lead to a precarious 1.5 games. With the direction of their season at a crossroads, they handed the ball to Lannan.

He allowed a pair of first-inning runs, but shut the potent Braves lineup down the rest of the way, as the Nationals chipped away with single runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings to retake control of the game and the direction of their season. His work done, Lannan was shipped back to Syracuse after the game.

Two weeks later, the Nationals faced the same situation, needing the services of a sixth starter for a doubleheader, this time against the Marlins. Again Lannan allowed a first-inning run, then cruised as the Washington offense scored seven times in the first four frames behind him. For Lannan, it was a second crucial spot-start, a second win and a third option, back to Syracuse, to wait until September and the expansion of the rosters. But the pitcher who had gone a pedestrian 6-10 with a 5.24 ERA looked like a whole new player on the mound. He pitched to a 3-1 record with a 1.63 ERA in August, finishing his minor league season with consecutive shutouts before rejoining the big league club for September.

“He battled, he continued to pitch,” recalled Brown. “He had a rough little patch, but he finished well and that’s definitely going to help him leading up to today’s start.”

Tonight, Lannan takes center stage in his hometown of New York. While the national media may not get to enjoy their anticipated frenzy over Stephen Strasburg’s final start of the season, they will instead get an even better story, one of a man who has done as much to earn his place on the mound tonight as anyone in a Nationals uniform.

“It’s great to be able to come back and pitch in my hometown, where I grew up watching baseball,” said the Long Beach, NY native. “Just staying in the city, just being back in the city, it’s a good vibe.”

Humble and thankful, Lannan is eager to help the Nationals down the stretch.

Lannan could be bitter from his time spent back in the minors, but instead he seems calm and collected, happy to be back at the top of the game, pitching in the most important games of his professional career with a Nationals club that is competitive for the first time in its young history.

“It’s been great. I’ve battled with these guys the last four years,” Lannan says of his second chance. “They’re my teammates, they’re my friends.”

One of Lannan’s close friends and teammates, Ian Desmond, has been one of the most vocal in supporting him through a trying season. The two played together as they rose through the system as well as the last several years in the District.

“Any time you go through struggles, in life or in baseball, it makes you stronger,” said Desmond. “Once you go back to the Minor Leagues, you remember where you came from. When you get back up (to the majors), it brings that joy back to you, helps you overcome. It kind of puts everything in perspective. I know he’s already bounced back twice, and I hope he continues to come out, pitch to the best of his ability, and help us to the promised land.”

What to Watch For: 9/12

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

Washington Nationals (88-54) vs. New York Mets (65-77)

LHP John Lannan (2-0, 3.46) vs. RHP Matt Harvey (3-4, 3.04)

The Nationals continued their winning ways Tuesday night, as Tyler Moore’s seventh-inning, pinch-hit, two-run home run turned a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead and an eventual 5-3 Washington victory. New York native John Lannan will make his first start since his September recall as the Nationals look for a three-game sweep of the Mets at Citi Field to open the road trip.

NATIONALS LINEUP

1. Werth RF

2. Harper CF

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. LaRoche 1B

5. Desmond SS

6. Bernadina LF

7. Suzuki C

8. Lombardozzi 2B

9. Lannan LHP

GREAT 8

With another RBI on Tuesday at Citi Field, Ryan Zimmerman has now plated at least one RBI in eight consecutive contests. That is the longest such streak posted by a Nationals player since the club landed in D.C. in 2005. Zimmerman is 21-for-65 (.323) with five home runs and 16 RBI during his 15-game hitting streak, which is tied with Kansas City’s Salvador Perez for the longest current streak in MLB.

LANNAN’S CANNON

John Lannan, a native of Long Beach, NY and a Chaminade High School graduate, will take on the Mets in his third start of the season for the Nationals. He is 2-0 with a 3.46 ERA in his two starts, with his last one coming August 3 in a 7-4 victory over the Miami Marlins. In his final two starts for Triple-A Syracuse, Lannan tossed complete-game shutouts August 25 at Gwinnett and August 30at Charlotte. Lannan has not pitched at Citi Field since earning the win there on April 10, 2010.

HARPER GETTING CLOSE TO THE HAMMER

After going 4-for-5 with a double and an RBI last night vs. New York, Bryce Harper now has 11 RBI against the Mets this season, the most by a rookie against the Mets since former National Josh Willingham posted 12 in 2006 as a member of the Florida Marlins.

DATE IN DC BASEBALL

September 12, 1962: At Memorial Stadium, 27 year-old Senator fireballer Tom Cheney sets a major league mark for K’s in a single game by striking out 21 batters in complete-game, 16-inning, 2-1 victory over the Orioles.

- FOLLOW NATIONALS VS. METS LIVE -

Power Hour

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

Did you remember that the Nationals hit three home runs in one inning Wednesday night? With everything else that happened in the game, a dramatic feat became a footnote to the larger overall story. Nevertheless, the “Nat Trick” was an impressive occurrence that signified the team’s offensive breakout, which has seen the bats score 61 runs in their last eight games (7.6 runs per game) after scoring just six times total in a five-game losing stretch before that. Even more impressive than the raw numbers, though, is the fact that everyone is contributing.

Adam LaRoche has homered four times in the first three games of the series.

On Tuesday, Davey Johnson gave Bryce Harper the night off, allowing him to miss a lefty starter and affording Tyler Moore a chance for some at-bats. Moore responded with a towering home run to left, one of the team’s six on the night. On Wednesday, Johnson sat Jayson Werth, a night after his four-hit game. That gave Roger Bernadina a chance to start, and he rewarded his skipper with a home run of his own. Oh, and Harper? He returned to the lineup to swat a pair of longballs, his second two-homer game in a week.

In the past two games – in which the Nationals have only batted a total of 16 innings, due to their cancellation of the bottom of the ninth each night – eight different players have combined to club 12 home runs. Adam LaRoche has led the way with three clouts, while Harper and Desmond have both pitched in a pair and Bernadina, Danny Espinosa, Jesus Flores, Moore and Ryan Zimmerman have one each. Collectively, they are just the third team in the last 95 years to post consecutive six-homer games, joining the ’96 Dodgers and the ’03 Angels.

Not to be outdone, Gio Gonzalez returned to the mound for the first time since his first career shutout last Friday, and was even more dominant. The lefty carried a no-hitter with no walks – the only baserunner to reach early came on an error in the third inning – all the way into the sixth. In the end, he allowed just three hits over seven scoreless frames, fanning nine Cubs without issuing a walk. He stretched his scoreless streak to 16 innings, striking out 17 and allowing just 11 runners to reach base over that span.

While Gio tries to track down 20 wins, Jordan Zimmermann looks for his 10th Thursday night, which would be the first double-digit win total of his career. Saturday, it will be Ross Detwiler’s turn to do the same, and on Sunday, Edwin Jackson will look for his fourth consecutive season of 10 or more wins. Should each accomplish the feat this weekend, or at some other time over the season’s final four weeks, it will give each of the Nats five primary starters a double-digit total for the season.

Gio Gonzalez and the Nats staff are closing in on some milestone numbers.

This is all the more impressive when you consider the fact that last year, on a team that finished a respectable 80-81, John Lannan (who was recently called up for reinforcement down the stretch) was the only pitcher to reach that mark, winning exactly 10 games. For some perspective, not even the 102-win Phillies of 2011 managed to have five starters with 10 or more wins. In fact, the only four teams that turned the trick last year were Milwaukee, Tampa Bay, Texas and St. Louis – all four playoff teams, the final two of which battled it out for the World Series.

Really, that has been the narrative of the 2012 Nationals all season long, that the club’s depth, both on offense and on the pitching staff, is so solid. The storyline was somewhat obscured by the rash of injuries suffered by position players early on. But Cubs manager Dale Sveum commented after Thursday night’s contest that Washington is “by far the best team we’ve played all year.” At this point, the Nats are the best team that they have been all year as well, playing their most dominating baseball of the season down the stretch, when it matters most.

Enjoy the full dirty dozen of homers from the past two nights in the video below before the Nationals look for their fifth straight Curly W and a sweep of the Cubs later tonight.

Not So Minor Accomplishments

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

The Nationals announced their Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year Awards prior to Monday’s game against the Chicago Cubs, and the names should come as no surprise to those who follow the Washington farm system closely. Infielder Matt Skole – who tore up the South Atlantic League before a late-season promotion to Potomac – and right-handed pitcher Nathan Karns, who largely did the same, took home the honors.

Matt Skole put up prolific numbers all season.

Skole was tremendous all season long, batting .292 with 28 doubles, a league-leading 27 home runs, 83 runs scored, 104 RBI and a .438 on-base percentage in just 118 games for Low-A Hagerstown while playing third base. After we profiled him here on Curly W Live, he went on to win the league’s Most Valuable Player Award, despite his mid-August promotion to the Carolina League. He continued to show his abilities at the next level, posting a slash line of .324/.356/.500 including seven multi-hit performances in 17 games heading into Monday’s season finale.

Karns, meanwhile, posted an organizational-best 2.17 ERA and an 11-4 record in 24 games (18 starts) for the Suns and P-Nats. His promotion came earlier in the season, after just 11 games with Hagerstown, that saw him go 3-0 with a 2.26 mark. He continued to impress at Potomac, twice winning Carolina League Pitcher of the Week honors. Karns led all Nationals farmhands with 148 strikeouts, and posted an eight-game winning streak over a nine-start span, logging a 0.94 ERA from June 15 to August 2.

Skole follows Tyler Moore (’10) and Steve Lombardozzi (’11) as a recipient of this award. Other notable former Minor League Pitchers of the Year include John Lannan (’07) and Jordan Zimmermann (’08). The pair will be honored for their accomplishments during an on-field ceremony prior to Friday’s 7:05 p.m. contest against Miami.

What to Watch for: 8/3 – Game 2

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

The Nationals jumped on the Marlins early for seven runs through the game’s first four frames and held on late for a 7-4 victory. Lefty Gio Gonzalez (13-5, 3.27) opposes right-hander Josh Johnson (6-7, 4.04) in the nightcap.

NATIONALS GAME 2 LINEUP

1. Lombardozzi 2B

2. Harper RF

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. LaRoche 1B

5. Morse LF

6. Espinosa SS

7. Bernadina CF

8. Leon C

9. Gonzalez LHP

ADAMVP

Adam LaRoche extended his hitting streak to match a career-long at 11 games with an RBI-single in the first inning and finished the afternoon 3-for-4 with a walk, a double, a home run, two runs scored and three RBI. LaRoche has batted .463 (19-for-41) with three walks, five home runs, seven runs scored and 12 RBI over that span.

JUST LANNAN BEING LANNAN

John Lannan, recalled from Triple-A Syracuse for doubleheader spot start for the second time in two weeks, turned in another solid performance to again earn the win. The lefty allowed three runs in 6.0 innings of work and is now 2-0 with a 3.46 ERA between in his two starts this year.

WALK THIS WAY

Nationals batters drew nine walks, including seven through the first four innings. Washington fell one base on balls shy of its season high, set all the way back on April 11 at Citi Field against the Mets.

- FOLLOW NATIONALS VS. MARLINS LIVE -

Aces Wild

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

You’ve heard all season about the aces of the Nationals pitching staff. The numbers posted have been gaudy, often pacing the rest of the National League. And while the offense has come on strong thanks to the resurgence of Ryan Zimmerman and the return of injured players (welcome back, Jayson Werth!), the pitching has continued to lead the way. In fact, three Nationals starters rank in the top 25 in the league in ERA since the All-Star break, including two in the top 11: Jordan Zimmermann (0.75, third), Ross Detwiler (1.75, 11th) and Edwin Jackson (2.92, 23rd).

What, you were expecting someone else?

The truth is, the “back end” of the rotation has outperformed the two All-Stars of the staff so far in the season’s second half. Even John Lannan – who has made only one start, but will make his second of the month in the doubleheader today – would rank tied for 17th at 2.57.

Ross Detwiler shut down the Phillies Thursday night.

Zimmermann was rewarded for his success, as he took home National League Pitcher of the Month honors for July. All he did was go 4-0 with an ERA under 1.00 over six starts, striking out 31 while walking just four. In so doing, he joined Stephen Strasburg (April) and Gio Gonzalez (May) as the first trio of teammates to win the award since the Astros had four pitchers – Ken Forsch, Joaquin Andujar, J.R. Richard and Joe Niekro – do so in 1979, 33 years ago.

Zimmermann was honored before Wednesday night’s game, when Detwiler took the hill opposite Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels. Detwiler stifled the Phillies, shutting them out on just three hits over seven strong innings, retiring the final 14 batters he faced. After the game, the lefty mused jokingly that he needed to beat Jackson to the punch in order to take down the award in August. Informed that he had a lower ERA than Strasburg and Gonzalez since his return to the rotation, Detwiler was quick to point out Zimmermann’s exploits.

“But Jordan’s still got me?” he asked. “I’ve got work to do.”

That’s the approach everyone in the rotation takes: go out there and try to one up the last guy. It has served them well so far, as Washington’s staff continues to lead the Major Leagues with a 3.26 ERA entering play on Friday.

All Is Good And Nothingness Is Dead

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

In 2002, the Oakland Athletics played one of the most gut-wrenching games in recent memory. Sitting on the brink of history, having won 19 contests in a row, they were just one triumph shy of setting a new American League record for consecutive victories. After taking the first two in a series from Kansas City, they needed only to close them out for a three-game home sweep to accomplish the feat. With one of their aces – Tim Hudson – on the mound, their chances seemed promising.

Through three innings, it was all unfolding according to plan with the A’s building an 11-0 lead. But then, a funny thing started to happen. The hapless Royals started to claw back. They got five runs in the fourth – normally quite a feat, but it was less than half the deficit they had dug themselves, so the party continued, undisturbed. The margin remained at 11-5 all the way to the eighth when, suddenly, they scored twice more, and had two more runners on for their superstar, Mike Sweeney. The A’s went to their best setup man, Jeff Tam. Sweeney drilled a towering, three-run shot into the left-field seats, and suddenly it was 11-10.

The A’s celebrated after surviving disaster, but might they have been better off with a loss? (AP)

Celebrations were over, replaced by a nervous murmur. The A’s failed to score in the eighth, and amazingly, Kansas City pushed across a run in the top of the ninth to tie the game at 11.

That’s the thing about baseball – there is no clock to run out. You can’t simply “manage the game,” the way you can with a 30-point lead in basketball or football. You have to earn every last painful, desperate, gut-wrenching out. And, sometimes, you forget how to do that.

Of course, those who have seen Moneyball already know how this story ends. Scott Hatteberg, pinch-hitting with one out in the bottom of the ninth, took ball one, then turned on the next pitch, sending it soaring deep into the California night and the history books.

It’s hard to say what the Athletics learned that day, as they got away with their mistakes. Their collapse, as stunning as it was, did not ruin their historical moment. But, as the movie fails to show, they did not carry any of their momentum with them. The team traveled to Minnesota the next day, where they would be shut out, ending the streak. That same Minnesota team would end up celebrating a Game 5 elimination victory back in Oakland just a month later, dispatching the A’s from the postseason.

Could one make the argument that the A’s would have learned more from such a loss, than from the historic victory?

The Nationals did not get away with their mistakes last Friday night. In the opener of a crucial intradivision series, what started out like a dream turned into a nightmare, as Atlanta fought its way back from an early 9-0 deficit to earn an 11-10 win in 11 innings. Not even Danny Espinosa’s game-tying, ninth-inning home run – after Washington had fallen behind 10-9 – was enough to bail them out. The Braves kept coming, and for one night, all seemed lost.

Danny Espinosa and Roger Bernadina helped get the Nationals back on track.

The Braves momentum carried into the first half of Saturday’s doubleheader, where the Nats were shut out for just the second time all season, and the first time at home. A steady mist descended upon Nationals Park all day long, and into the night cap. It was a scene more befitting of Washington State than D.C., the dense clouds and light rain swarming the combined crowd of nearly 70,000 spectators all day and for much of the evening. In fact, the rain had been falling since the sixth inning of Friday night’s affair, right when the game had begun to turn on the Nats.

The offensive drought continued through the first four frames of Game 2. But then, a funning thing happened – the sky, both literally and figuratively, stopped falling. After 13 innings of stunned, scoreless ball, the Nationals went back to work, trailing just 2-0, thanks to arguably the biggest pitching performance of the season from perhaps its most unlikely hero: John Lannan. Summoned from Triple-A under the new rule that allows for an extra man to be added to the roster specifically for doubleheaders, Lannan pitched with the knowledge that he would likely be sent back to the minors following the game, regardless of the outcome. And after a shaky first that saw him escape with just two runs of damage, he was nearly unhittable the rest of the night.

That left Washington within striking distance in the bottom of the fifth, and strike the Nationals did, bit by bit. They pushed across a single run to finally get in the scoring column, but missed the chance for more. In the sixth, they did so again, tying the game, but failing to seize the lead. So they just kept coming. Roger Bernadina, filling in for Bryce Harper after he left the first game with a bruised ankle, drove home the go-ahead run with two outs in the seventh. In the eighth, Harper came back. He laced a pinch-single, stole second (!) and scored on Espinosa’s single, adding a crucial insurance run. Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard, who had both been out of sorts the night before, combined to slam the door shut as they have done much of the past two months.

Few hitters have been as hot as Ryan Zimmerman over the past month.

After all the doom and gloom following Friday night’s affair, what happened in the 36 hours to follow? The Nats took two of three from their closest division rival, including both a nail-biting, come-from-behind victory and an emphatic, 9-2 rout in which the home side banished any lingering effects from Friday night’s letdown.

That’s the thing about adversity – it can crush your spirits, take you out of your element, and turn the tide of a pennant race. Or, it can bring out the best in your character and – by showing that you won’t succumb to the pressure, but rather will rally back stronger than ever – be an even bigger blow to your opponents. The Nationals will have to prove themselves six more times against the Braves before the regular season concludes, but after last weekend, they walked away from their biggest setback no worse for wear, maintaining the same 3.5-game cushion with which they entered the series.

Then they went to New York, winning a crazy, extra-inning affair by scoring six runs in the 10th inning on Monday night, and finally triumphing over Mets ace R.A. Dickey on Tuesday. On Wednesday, they completed the three-game sweep with a 5-2 win, their fifth straight. Their NL East lead sits at 4.5 games over the Braves, and more than 10 against everyone else in the division.

Time will tell if this was that moment for the Nationals, and if the offense will continue to batter the ball the way it did to open and close this weekend’s series. But one thing is for sure: what has not killed this Washington squad so far in 2012 has only made it stronger.

What to Watch for: 7/21

 Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

Atlanta Braves (51-41) vs. Washington Nationals (53-38)

Game 1: RHP Ben Sheets (1-0, 0.00) vs. RHP Edwin Jackson (5-5, 3.89)

Game 2: RHP Randall Delgado (4-9, 4.52) vs. LHP John Lannan (NR, -.–)

The Nationals stormed out to a 9-0 lead in Friday night’s series opener, only to have the Braves come back for an 11-10 victory in 11 innings. Washington powered out three home runs in the loss, though, including just the second all year off Atlanta closer Craig Kimbrel in the ninth (leading to his second blown save) by Danny Espinosa, and the longest home run in the history of Nats Park, a 465-foot, three-run bomb by Michael Morse in the first inning.

NATIONALS LINEUP, GAME 1:

1. Lombardozzi LF

2. Harper CF

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. Morse RF

5. LaRoche 1B

6. Desmond SS

7. Espinosa 2B

8. Flores C

9. Jackson RHP

LET’S PLAY TWO

According to MLB’s Official Baseball Rules and the Elias Sports Bureau, “A doubleheader is two regularly scheduled or rescheduled games, played in immediate succession,” so today’s day-night or split “doubleheader” is actually not considered a doubleheader. Pragmatists, however, know that the Nationals are 4-3-6 (sweeps-swept-splits) when playing twice in a single day, or 14-12 overall, since landing in D.C. in 2005.

LOMBO SKOFFS AT TRISKAIDEKAPHOBIA

Steve Lombardozzi has hit safely in 13 straight games. Note that Lombardozzi executed a sacrifice bunt in his lone plate appearance on July 7 vs. Colorado, but that did not terminate his hitting streak per Rule 10.23(a) in the Official Baseball Rules. His 13-gamer is the longest hit streak posted by a National this season.

EDWIN LOOKS TO FINALLY TOP BRAVES; LANNAN MAKES 2012 DEBUT

Over his six-year major league career, Edwin Jackson has beaten 25 of 30 MLB teams, but never the  Braves. In addition to never beating Atlanta, he has yet to top the Nationals, Phillies, Padres and Cardinals. In the nightcap, John Lannan will make his 2012 MLB debut. Since facing Atlanta for the first time on April 12th, 2008, Lannan’s eight career wins against the Braves are tied for the MLB lead with Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels.

- FOLLOW NATIONALS VS. BRAVES LIVE -

What to Watch for: 7/20

 Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

Atlanta Braves (50-41) vs. Washington Nationals (53-37)

RHP Tommy Hanson (10-5, 4.02) vs. RHP Stephen Strasburg (10-4, 2.66)

The Nationals are coming off another series win that saw them take two-of-three from the New York Mets earlier this week. They face an Atlanta team that sits 3.5 games back in second place as the teams open a crucial four-game series over the next three days in D.C.

NATIONALS LINEUP

Lombardozzi LF

Harper CF

Zimmerman 3B

LaRoche 1B

Morse RF

Desmond SS

Espinosa 2B

Flores C

Strasburg RHP

BIG SERIES

The Nationals and Braves begin a series tonight that is scheduled to include four games in a 48-hour period from Friday at 7:05 p.m. through Sundy at 1:35 p.m. A June 1 rainout necessitated Saturday’s day/night doubleheader, which will include John Lannan’s 2012 debut and Ben Sheets’ second start with the Braves. Washington leads the season series, 6-2, and has outscored Atlanta, 44-28 along the way.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, STRAS!

On his 24th birthday, starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg will make his fourth start against Atlanta in 2012. The righty is 2-1 with a 4.20 ERA (7 ER/15.0 IP) against the Braves so far this season. Strasburg looks to build on his six shutout innings in his last start, 7/15 at Miami, in which he allowed just six hits and one walk in a 4-0 Nationals victory.

NL EAST FEAST

Including a 9-4 mark at home, Washington is 20-12 (.625) overall against NL East foes this season (6-2 vs. ATL, 4-5 vs. MIA, 6-3 vs. NYM, 4-2 vs. PHI). The Nationals .625 intradivision winning percentage is MLB’s best, despite having played 19 of their 32 NL East tilts on the road.

- FOLLOW NATIONALS VS. BRAVES LIVE -

What to Watch for: 6/26

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

Washington Nationals (41-30) vs. Colorado Rockies (28-44)

RHP Gio Gonzalez (9-3, 2.55) vs. LHP Christian Friedrich (4-4, 5.65)

Tonight, the Nationals take on Colorado in game two of the four-game set in the Rocky Mountains. A win this evening would prevent the Nationals from losing two consecutive series for the first time this season. Additionally, the match-up holds great potential for one of the Nats to set an impressive franchise record.

NATIONALS LINEUP

1. Espinosa 2B

2. Harper CF

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. Morse RF

5. LaRoche 1B

6. Desmond SS

7. Moore LF

8. Flores C

9. Gonzalez LHP

ZIMMERMAN CLOSE TO 1,000

With 998 in the bag, Ryan Zimmerman is just two hits shy of recording his 1,000th career hit. While Zimmerman would become the seventh player to record a 1,000th career hit in a Washington uniform, he would be the first to do so exclusively as a National. The first six to 1,000: Adam LaRoche, Adam Dunn, Aaron Boone, Cristian Guzman, Alfonso Soriano and Jose Guillen.

VIEW FROM THE TOP

Despite having dropped three of four, the Nationals remain 3.5 games ahead of both the Braves and Mets in the NL East standings. The Nationals have either led the NL East or shared the top spot for 72 of the season’s 82 days. Only the Texas Rangers (79) and the Los Angeles Dodgers (79) have more days atop of their divisions in 2012.

GIO TAKES TO THE HILL

Tonight vs. Colorado, Gio Gonzalez will attempt to become just the second National (2005-present) lefty to reach the double-digit win plateau. The last, and only other National to do it was John Lannan when he won 10 games in 2011. Like Stephen Strasburg last night, Gio has never faced the Colorado Rockies, but is 3-3 with 2.53 ERA in seven career starts against the NL West.

- FOLLOW NATIONALS VS. ROCKIES LIVE -

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 537 other followers