Lannan continues to build confidence

Lannan continues to build confidence

WASHINGTON -- Growing up on Long Island, John Lannan learned to love baseball by watching the New York Yankees.

So what is it going to be like for the Nationals left-hander to pitch against the Boston Red Sox -- bitter rivals of his childhood team?

"Not a big deal," Lannan said with a tone of indifference. "I wasn't really into the whole Yankees-Red Sox thing. I liked the Yankees, but I didn't hate the Red Sox."

Lannan used to attend games at Yankee Stadium with his father, Ed, but he never saw the Red Sox play there. He stopped going to games in Bronx in 2000.

"Before that rivalry really heated up," Lannan said.

In a return trip to Yankee Stadium on Wednesday -- this time the "new Yankee Stadium" and pitching instead of spectating -- Lannan fired 8 1/3 innings for a Nationals victory.

Though it was the thrill of his career, Lannan said that he has since moved on.

"It's old news," according to the 24-year-old southpaw.

"John is pretty even-keel, regardless of who he faces," manager Manny Acta said. "All he tries to do is hit the glove, and use that sinker low and away and let his pitches do the work."

Still, a win in Yankee Stadium can only give Lannan more confidence as he moves ahead in his pitching career. And confidence is a good thing to have against Boston's veteran lineup.

The Red Sox have scored the fourth-most runs in the Majors. But the Yankees -- whom Lannan mostly stifled, apart from a pair of solo home runs -- have the second-most runs.

Boston's lineup is among the most patient clubs in baseball, having taken more walks than any other.

"I just gotta get ahead of these guys," Lannan said. "If you throw behind, they're gonna hurt you. They have a really good lineup; you've got to throw as many strikes as possible."

With three strong starts in June, Lannan has reduced his ERA to 3.38 -- which puts him in the top 15 for National League starters.

Though it may not carry any sentimental value, another good outing against an American League East foe is just what the Nationals could use.

Pitching matchup
WSH: LHP John Lannan (4-5, 3.38 ERA)
Lannan is quickly becoming the undisputed ace of the rotation. He showed he could do it on the big stage, as the New York native went to Yankee Stadium and beat his hometown team, 3-2. The lefty threw 8 1/3 innings and gave up solo shots to Robinson Cano and Johnny Damon. But that was the only pressure that the Yankees lineup could apply. Lannan only gave up two other hits and one walk, while he struck out four New York batters.

BOS: RHP Brad Penny (6-2, 4.94 ERA)
Penny continues to be a source of consistency in the Red Sox's rotation. While his future with Boston remains to be seen, the 31-year-old right-hander is improving with every start. One week after holding the Yankees scoreless over six frames, Penny fired five impressive innings of one-run ball against the Marlins on Wednesday at Fenway Park. He has dominated the Montreal/Washington franchise in his career, sporting a 12-5 record and a 2.54 ERA in 20 starts.

Tidbits
In the Nationals' three-game series against the Jays, third baseman and No. 3 hitter Ryan Zimmerman was 0-for-15 with two strikeouts. Coming out of the series, his batting average has plunged from .310 to .293. ... With two more hits against the Blue Jays on Sunday, Cristian Guzman has a team-best 25 multihit games in 51 starts this season. ... The last time the Nationals played the Red Sox was at Boston in 2006. The Red Sox swept that series.

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Up next
• Wednesday: Nationals (Craig Stammen, 1-2, 4.76) vs. Red Sox (Jon Lester, 5-6, 4.69), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Thursday: Nationals (TBD) vs. Red Sox (John Smoltz, 2009 debut), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Friday: Nationals (Ross Detwiler, 0-3, 4.76) at Orioles (TBD), 7:05 p.m. ET

Mark Selig is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.