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Unfinished business for Nationals

Unfinished business for Nationals

DENVER -- Staff ace John Lannan just wants to win, and he won't hesitate to make a sacrifice some pitchers wouldn't dream of doing when the Nationals begin a four-game series against the Astros on Thursday.

"I just told [manager] Manny [Acta] just now that I could start both games," Lannan said. "I'm down. I'll throw both games tomorrow."

Before the two clubs can begin their series, they have to complete the suspended game started on May 5 at Nationals Park. The game was tied at 10 in the bottom of the 11th inning before it was interrupted by rain.

When the suspended game resumes at 7:05 p.m. ET, the Nationals are the home team and will bat with a runner on first with one out. Elijah Dukes drew a one-out walk, but since he's currently at Triple-A Syracuse, Acta announced on Monday that newly acquired Nyjer Morgan will be his replacement. Josh Bard will also replace the injured Jesus Flores at catcher.

The pitcher of record for the Nationals is Joel Hanrahan, who is no longer with the club after he was traded in the four-player deal on June 30 that brought back Morgan and Sean Burnett. If the game continues past the 11th, Acta will have six different relievers to choose from, and, of course, Lannan.

The Astros could choose to keep right-handed reliever LaTroy Hawkins on the mound when play resumes.

The regularly scheduled game will start at 8:05 p.m., unless the suspended game goes past 7:45 p.m. In that case, the second game will start 20 minutes after the suspended game is completed.

When the regular scheduled contest gets under way, Lannan will be gunning for his career-high fifth consecutive win. The second-year veteran has pitched well all season, but he's taken it up a notch since June, going 4-0 with a 2.40 ERA in six starts (45 innings). Lannan credits his success to a more intense running and lifting program.

"I started my workouts a little tougher," Lannan said. "During the week, instead of maintaining it, I try to get stronger during the week. I push myself in the workouts so I feel better mentally and physically on the day that I pitch."

As a result, he's turned a weakness from last year into a strength.

"Last year, I was having trouble going into the seventh and eighth inning, and this year I'm really working on getting deeper into ballgames," Lannan said.

Pitching matchup
WSH: LHP John Lannan (6-5, 3.45 ERA)
Lannan ended up being the winning pitcher on Saturday, yielding three runs on nine hits over eight innings against the Braves. At 6-5, it's the first time since Aug. 1, 2007, that Lannan has a record over .500 during the season. The first run scored in the third inning when Nate McLouth singled up the middle to drive in Brooks Conrad. In the sixth, Chipper Jones and Garret Anderson had RBI singles, but Lannan was able to get out of the inning when Yunel Escobar hit into a double play.

HOU: RHP Russ Ortiz (3-4, 4.11 ERA)
Ortiz gave up nine eights and eight runs in his most recent start, last Saturday against the Giants. He was cruising through 4 2/3 innings before unraveling quickly and losing for the second time in three starts. He hasn't won a game as a starter since back-to-back wins on April 21 and 26. Ortiz is 11-6 with a 3.11 ERA in 18 career starts against Washington.

Tidbits
Pitcher Matt Chico returned from his rehab and was reinstated from the disabled list. He has been optioned to Double-A Harrisburg. ... The Nationals beat the Astros in the only completed game this season, 9-4, on May 4. Lannan earned the win that day. ... The club is 5-23 in series openers. ... Josh Willingham is batting .400 (20-for-50) in his last 14 games.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• MASN

On radio
• WFED 1500, SBN 1390 (Español), ESPN 730 (Sp.)

Up next
• Friday: Nationals (Scott Olsen, 2-4, 6.04) at Astros (Roy Oswalt, 5-4, 3.81), 8:05 p.m. ET
• Saturday: Nationals (Craig Stammen, 1-4, 4.88) at Astros (Mike Hampton, 5-5, 4.16), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Nationals (Jordan Zimmermann, 3-3, 4.52) at Astros (Brian Moehler, 5-5, 5.52), 2:05 p.m. ET

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

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