Things have gone from bad to worse for the Washington Nationals — with the team’s bats silenced by Padres’ pitching, at least the Nats could count on their starters to put inÂ six or maybe even seven innings of solid work. That was particularly true for John Lannan, perhaps the club’s steadiest starter. That’s not true now.Â The normally predictableÂ lefty was anything but predictable on Wednesday, as Lannan struggled through a difficult fifth inning, allowing the Friars to score five runs to extend the Nationals’ losing streak to an embarrassing six games. That makes two sweeps in a row: one in St Louis and one in San Diego — with the Nationals now without a win since the series against the Chicago Cubs. The Nats seem to have slipped back to some their worst habits under Manny Acta: of scoring little and pitching poorly — but at least playing withÂ fire.
While hard luck lefty John Lannan pitched well, though not brilliantly, theÂ Padres found ways to score: in the fifth, Everth Cabrera and David Eckstein hit seeing eye singles beforeÂ all-star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez hit a line drive that tailed away from left-fielder Wille Harris. The ball landed just out of his reach, scoring two runs.Â Chase Headley’s two-run double later in the half-inning added to San Diego’s lead, and that was essentially the game. In the clubhouse afterwards, Nationals interim manager Jim Riggleman remained upbeat:Â “[Lannan] was a lot better than the line scores are going to say,” Riggleman said. “If Willie catches that ball, and I know it was a tough play, if we catch that ball, we’ve got a bunch of zeroes on the board and it doesn’t get us into trouble right there. You look for effort, and we got a good effort.” Lannan was also philosophical:Â “That’s the way the game goes,” he said. “It has happened to me before. You’ve just got to tip your hat, they made things happen in the fifth. I battled today, I felt pretty good.”
Down On Half Street: Former Philadelphia Phillies All Star shortstop and Chicago CubsÂ manager (and now Trolleyman third base coach) Larry BowaÂ was in his element today on the MLB satellite radio network — he was in front of a microphone being asked his opinion. This isn’t the first time. Bowa has been here before and is now counted on asÂ somewhat of a regular.Â Bowa can beÂ obnoxious, which isÂ why he’s no longer managing, but he’s mostly right about almost everything having to do with baseball. And he was again today.Â It was a fascinating interview and former Angels skipper and now XM Radio “Home Plate” on-air personality Kevin Kennedy did what he was supposed to do: he fed him softballs that Bowa dutifully lofted into the stands.
The American League is “far and away”Â the better league,Â Bowa said, andÂ added that the A.L. East isÂ packed with talent. He added that theÂ difference between the two leagues is not even that close. (See, what did I tell you — this guy is obviously a moron.) Bowa then said that he thought that Manny Ramirez was overswinging in the wake of his suspension, to show that he could put the ball out of the ballpark without steroids, but that his swing would soon return to normal. “He’ll be okay,” Bowa said. That makesÂ sense (and it’s whatÂ any L.A. cabbie could have told us).Â Bowa also said that it was the plan of the Dodgers to keep James Loney at first and play new-guy-in-L.A. Jim Thome off the bench: to keep a lefthanded bat ready for the post-season (another safe prediction). My own sense is that L.A. is haunted by the spectre of Matt Stairs, whose post-season home run last year so buckled the Trolley’s knees that they will not allow it to happen again. Hence — Thome!
But by far the most interesting and insightful comment — and least from a purely baseball perspective — was Bowa’s analysis of L.A.’s reason for acquiring the much-traveledÂ Jon Garland, lately of Arizona. Garland is not simply a steady pitcher who can be another starting arm in the run-up to the post-season, he said, “he’s a very steady ground ball pitcher.” Bowa said that if you check Garland’s stats you’ll see that he pitches mostly down in the zone “and to contact” — as he did throughout his career with the White Sox, Angels and most recently the Diamondbacks. “So you have to have good fielders behind him, which he didn’t have in Arizona.”Â That’s not true with the Dodgers.
With the Dodgers, “who are either one or two in defense, I can’t remember which”Â (Bowa added) Garland can pitch to contact and get people out in a way that he couldn’t in Arizona. Los Angeles can put a defense behind Garland that will make him a better pitcherÂ than he ever was in Arizona — and maybe even take half-a-run offÂ his ERA. That would make Garland’s current ERA of 4.29 in Arizona somewhereÂ in the under 3.50 range in L.A. “Which is darn good” by National League standards. That’s not bad statistical thinking for a shlameelÂ like Bowa, who regularly harumphsÂ about Bill James and sabarmetrics with his buddy-buds on the radio: “Bill James, you know, the guy who invented Sabermetrics,” radio guy Dan Patrick once reminded Bowa during an interview. Bowa turned up his nose.Â â€œWhat team did he play for?â€Â Bowa whined. â€œThis guy Bill James has all the answers, but heâ€™s never worn a uniform.â€ Yeah, that’s right Larry. And neither did L.A. General Manager Ned Colletti — the guy who pulled the trigger on the Garland trade.