Much of John Lannan’s early starts this season were characterized by one word: battle.
Even when Lannan would win or would pitch well enough to win, he’d discuss the constant fight he had on the mound to make pitches when he needed to or to locate what he wanted.
But before his start against the San Diego Padres a week-and-a-half ago, Lannan threw nearly 80 sinkers in his bullpen session. He hammered the pitch home knowing that, for him, it’s the basis for all of his effectiveness.
“It really doesn’t matter how my other pitchers are because my other pitches are better based on if my sinker’s there or not,” Lannan said Monday.
And Monday, it was on. Lannan held the San Francisco Giants at bay for seven solid innings, allowing just four hits, walking only three and surrendering a solo home run to Aaron Rowand to leadoff his final inning of work. For the third straight start Lannan did more than the requisite work to enable his team to win but for the first time in that string, they didn’t.
Lannan, certainly, deserved a better fate than watching his hard work evaporate over the course of a three reliever meltdown in the eighth that allowed the Giants to tie the game and, five innings later, ultimately win it. But while the Nationals were sour at dropping the game, a gut-wrenching way to lose after such an uplifting extra-innings victory the night before, there were plenty of positives and Lannan was No. 1 on the list.
“He did tremendous,” said catcher Ivan Rodriguez. “Pitched seven strong inning and then they tied the game. I feel sorry for him, he just pitched great but he needs to keep doing what he’s doing.”
According to Brooks Baseball, Lannan threw his two-seam fastball, which is his sinker, 43 times Monday night and 26 times he threw it for a strike. It was the most-used and most effective pitch in Lannan’s repertoire, his four-seamer second with 23 and then mixing his off-speed stuff in pretty evenly.
He hasn’t thrown an absurd amount of sinkers in each bullpen like he did before the start against the Padres, but he’s still committed to the pitch. Making the mental adjustment to trust it was half the battle. Now, he’s got to continue to ride the results.
“I felt a change going into that Padres start and I’m just rolling with it right now because it’s working,” he said. “I’m just going to keep on doing what I’ve been doing and keeping the same routine. It basically comes down to the sinker, working effectively down in the zone.
“It was good in the beginning of the year but now it’s kind of the pitch that I have to have on so I put more of an emphasis on making sure that I have it… every time I throw I make a conscious effort to remember how I felt when I threw a good sinker.”