On the brim of every cap John Lannan wears on the mound are the letters AA.
They’re there, in indelible ink, to remind the lanky left-hander of a place he never wants to go back to. It was at this time last year when Lannan was demoted from the major league roster all the way to Double-A Harrisburg, a wakeup call for Lannan and easily the lowest point in his somewhat brief major league career.
One year and one day after Lannan was sent to Harrisburg, he threw 5 2/3 innings of one-run baseball against the Seattle Mariners — the sixth straight start he’s allowed two earned runs or less and the continuation of a remarkable stretch since he refocused his strategy on executing his sinker.
Asked if he’d remove the ‘AA’ now that he’s passed the one-year mark, Lannan said there was no chance. “I’ll never forget,” he said Wednesday night.
With the win, Lannan, one of the longest-tenured Nationals, also helped his team reach the .500 mark this late in the season for the first time since he’s been on the roster.
“I knew tonight was a big game,” Lannan said. “You kind of felt it. I knew I had to go out there and do my job, and I think everybody felt it. I think they feel that urgency, that if they don’t do their job, they’re letting their team down. That’s a good thing to have. I think we’re pulling together as a team to win these ballgames.”
Lannan has come a long way in a year but he’s also come a long way this year.
In Lannan’s first 10 starts of the year, he had a 5.03 ERA. In his last six he’s got a 1.15 ERA and hasn’t allowed more than two earned runs in a single game (which he’s done only once).
“It’s been several outings in a row he’s just been really good,” said Nationals manager Jim Riggleman. “He’s just been outstanding. I’m just going to leave him alone and let him pitch.”
After where he was at this point last year, that’s just fine with John Lannan.