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The Hanrahan question

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Not much point in rehashing the particulars of this one—the Nats’ pitchers left pitches up, and the Orioles whacked everything in sight. Instead, I’ll throw out the question of the night: What in the world do the Nationals do with Joel Hanrahan?

He was handed the closer’s job late last July after the team traded Jon Rauch, and sewed it up with no competition this spring. But instead of growing into the role, he’s regressed, to a point where the Nationals don’t feel comfortable putting him in anything resembling a pressure situation.

Even the non-pressure situations have become a challenge. Hanrahan gave up four runs in the sixth inning tonight, retiring just one batter and inflating his season ERA to 7.71. In his last 2 1/3 innings, he’s given up eight runs.

“Right now, there’s no way to hide him,” manager Manny Acta said. ‘We’re just going to have to continue to pitch him in situations like this, when we’re trailing and stuff. But that being said, he’s still going to have to pitch.”

The Nationals continue to hang onto Hanrahan because he’s got a mid-90s fastball and a good slider—two seemingly obvious building blocks to being a closer. But his confidence seems to have eroded, along with his command—hanging sliders got him in trouble again tonight, particularly against Melvin Mora and Adam Jones.

“It’s really frustrating,” Hanrahan said. “I know I’m better than this. You guys know I’m better than this. I’m just going to keep fighting, and keep going after it.”

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