Originally posted on The Nats Blog  |  Last updated 7/22/12

Things didn’t look all that good for the Washington Nationals half way through this four-game series against the Atlanta Braves. But a former Nats number one starter and the best number five pitcher in baseball had something to say about that.

Friday night was a particularly hard loss for the Nats, as they had a nine-run lead through five innings, which they eventually blew in the eleventh for an 11-10 loss. With a shutout loss in game one of the double header on Saturday, some fans decided game two on Saturday was a “must-win.” Even though it wasn’t, because it was July 21, the Nats rebounded in a big way for a series win behind John Lannan and Ross Detwiler.

Lannan was masterful in his call up appearance for the Nats on Saturday evening, where he gave up two early runs in the first but didn’t allow another run for the rest of his seven inning outing. He was quickly optioned back down to Triple-A Syracuse after the game, but he said all the right things and helped the club win. While I don’t subscribe to the “biggest game of the season” commentary, it was a huge win for the Nats to help salvage a series split. 

Detwiler did his best on Sunday to mirror Lannan’s appearance. He, too, went seven innings, sacrificing just two runs (one earned). His fastball was dominating, and he simply owned a good-hitting Braves team. His performance shows why the Nats have been so successful. When you have a number five starter that has been as good as Ross, you can win a lot of games. He now has a 3.01 ERA on the season.

As a long-time Nats fan, it was bittersweet to see Lannan get sent down after his game. You knew it was coming, yet it still hurt. He did everything that was asked of him. He hasn’t cause a lot of drama about his demotion from day one, and he got the team a much-needed win. He’ll likely be up in a matter of weeks to replace Stephen Strasburg in the rotation, and you hope you get the same kind of guy. He has the chance to be another real feel good story for the Nats this season.

As the Nats split the series, they maintain the 3.5 game lead in the National League East, the same lead with which they entered action on Friday. They have a stretch upcoming in their schedule where they can really rack up some wins, though they’ll have to do it without their first-half MVP Ian Desmond, who is headed to the disabled list with an oblique tear. If they can get over yet another major injury obstacle, it seems like nothing can stop this team.

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