The surging Nationals have won 16 of their last 23 contests entering play Tuesday, helping propel the team to a 43-43 mark. A big contributor to the Nats has been left-hander John Lannan, who is second only to third baseman Ryan Zimmerman in consecutive club tenure among all Washington players. Lannan is now playing under manager Davey Johnson and he has not lost a game since May 21. He recently answered the following questions from MLBPLAYERS.com:
MLBPLAYERS.com: Can you talk about what your team has accomplished on the field these last several weeks?
John Lannan: It's been huge. It is impressive, especially with everything we have had going on around us of late. It shows that we have a lot of character, and it shows how strong and how together we are as a team.
MLBPLAYERS.com: How do the players keep their focus given what has happened with your club's manager?
Lannan: We won't allow anything that shouldn't affect us to affect us. Whether it is what is happening in our manager's area or outside the lines on the whole, we don't let it affect the games. We go out and battle for 27 outs.
MLBPLAYERS.com: This recent win streak has helped thrust your team into the playoff picture. It isn't July yet, but do you start thinking about pitching in important games?
Lannan: There is still a long way to go. We are at a good point right now, but we know that our job isn't done. We still have a lot of work to do.
MLBPLAYERS.com: You have pitched so well of late. What has worked for you?
Lannan: Probably the location of my fastball. When you don't do that, you catch a little too much of the plate when you need to throw a strike. When that happens they can put the bat on the ball, and sometimes they find holes.
MLBPLAYERS.com: In your start on June 27, you did not have your best stuff. Was it your mindset to grind it out the best you could?
Lannan: Yeah. Fortunately, the defense did a great job behind me and our relievers did a great job of keeping us in the ballgame. It seemed that I always had runners on. I made some pitches when I needed to, but it was a real battle.
MLBPLAYERS.com: What are some indicators to you that you don't have your best stuff?
Lannan: You catch too much of the plate, you fall behind in the count. You have to battle, and you have to try and keep making adjustments. It just doesn't really work the way you want it to. You hope that when the balls are hit hard, they are right at someone. That is just how this game works sometimes.
MLBPLAYERS.com: How well has this club supported you?
Lannan: Defensively and offensively guys here have been tremendous. Even when we have lost, we haven't given up. That has been the motto of our team so far. The game isn't over until it is over, right up to the final at-bat. Sometimes you don't win, but you get after it tomorrow and still try to win each series.
MLBPLAYERS.com: You took the ball for Washington for Davey Johnson's first game as skipper. Did you focus on not putting any pressure on yourself?
Lannan: No, I don't think so. Davey came in and it was really business as usual. We just come in and play hard. I think that shows how strong we are mentally and that we are here to play baseball, no matter what happens outside. Those things should not affect the way we play the game.
MLBPLAYERS.com: What was it like to have Johnson in the dugout?
Lannan: You know, I haven't interacted with him much. I saw him that first day he came in, but I was pitching that night so, really, there and then I was focusing on pitching.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Your team has been a little short-handed of late in the bullpen. As a starter, do you approach a start any differently knowing that?
Lannan: You know about it, but I don't really think about that. Every time I get the ball, I am going to try and pitch as deep into a ballgame that I can. Regardless of whether we are short or not, I know I have to go deep into the game.
Jeff Moeller is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.