PHILADELPHIA — Tonight, John Lannan will make his 120th major league start. He’ll do it on the same mound that he made his first — the same mound that he was ejected off of after hitting Ryan Howard and Chase Utley — and with the same umpire behind the plate as that fateful afternoon.
None of this is really new. Lannan has pitched in Philadelphia five times in his career and he’s even pitched with tonight’s umpire, Hunter Wendelstedt behind the plate one other time, but all three haven’t come together, the place, the pitcher and the umpire, since July 26, 2007.
Phillies fans hate Lannan for hitting Howard, and even more for hitting Utley (whose hand was broken because of it). But in reality, they should love him. Lannan is 1-10 in his career against them and 0-4 with an 8.02 ERA inside Citizens Bank Park.
That said, Lannan’s first win over the Phillies came in his last meeting with them. It came after Lannan refocused himself on his sinker and started off a torrid stretch that has helped him put together his finest major league season to date.
Lannan has spent a lot of the second half conquering demons, if you will. He got back on the mound after taking a line drive off his face and beat the Braves. Then he got over facing the same Rockies lineup that he did the day of the injury, and beat them, too. Barring the rain holds off, we’ll see if he can conquer something else tonight.
– Nationals manager Davey Johnson said he spoke to catcher Ivan Rodriguez on Friday and the veteran receiver is still feeling pain from a right oblique strain when he swings a bat. That puts Rodriguez, who’s been on the disabled list since July 7, on no timetable for his return to the active roster. Setback after setback has hindered Rodriguez in his attempt to return to full health. He received an epidural shot for the area last weekend but took batting practice a day later and was subsequently shut down for a few days.
Johnson said it is not out of the question that Rodriguez misses the whole season but it’s all up to how well he scales back his workout routine and stops trying to push the healing process.
“I think it’s possible (he’ll miss the rest of the year),” Johnson said. “But if he just backs off and lets his body heal (he could be back). But he’s a guy who’s chomping at the bit and wants to be back here so he’s going to do everything he can to rush it. I’ve warned him 100 times to relax and let your body heal, but he’s been pushing it.”
– Nothing has been officially set but Stephen Strasburg will throw a side session on Sunday in Potomac or Washington (depending on the weather) and his next rehab start is expected to be Wednesday. Strasburg, who threw three dominant innings for Single-A Potomac on Friday night, will most likely make his next start in Hagerstown. The Suns and Triple-A Syracuse are the only Nationals affiliates who will be playing at home on that date and while it wouldn’t be an issue for Strasburg to move down a level from where his last start was, it might be a big jump for him to step in and face Triple-A hitters in just his third rehab start.
– There is a strong chance that the Nationals and Phillies game does not start on time tonight. it’s about 40 minutes before gametime and the tarp is still on the field here at Citizens Bank Park.
Heavy rain is also predicted for Sunday, so chances are they’ll wait it out tonight to try and get at least one game in.
If they do play, here are the lineups behind Lannan and Roy Oswalt. It’s a pretty standard lineup for the Nationals, with one minor tweak in Ian Desmond dropping back into the eighth spot after some struggle against Oswalt in the past and Wilson Ramos moving up a spot to better protect Laynce Nix, Johnson said.
Rick Ankiel CF
Danny Espinosa 2B
Ryan Zimmerman 3B
Michael Morse 1B
Jayson Werth RF
Laynce Nix LF
Wilson Ramos C
Ian Desmond SS
John Lannan P
Jimmy Rollins SS
Shane Victorino CF
Chase Utley 2B
Ryan Howard 1B
Hunter Pence RF
Raul Ibanez LF
Carlos Ruiz C
Wilson Valdez 3B
Roy Oswalt P