The Washington Times - August 22, 2009, 09:44PM

Not a lot of fans stuck it out through a 1-hour, 21-minute rain delay for the start of tonight’s game. Those who did stay, though, are being treated to the wildest game of the year. And we’re only three innings into this one.

What’s happened so far? Well … John Lannan got knocked out after 1 2/3 innings and seven runs allowed, the shortest start of his career. Jim Riggleman got ejected after arguing his third questionable call of the game, a check swing on Ryan Zimmerman (which was the correct call, by the way). And then Ronnie Belliard hit the very next pitch over the left-field fence for a grand slam to cut the Brewers’ lead to 8-6.


Yeah, we’re in for a wild one here.

Let’s start with Lannan, who had made 62 big league starts prior to tonight. It’s safe to say none of those previous outings was as ugly as this one. Lannan was rocked by the Brewers over 1 2/3 painful innings. The ace of the Nats’ pitching staff allowed seven runs on seven hits plus two walks and threw 43 pitches. He wasn’t having trouble finding the strike zone, and his velocity was fine (consistently 89 mph). But his sinker had no sink, and a lot of pitches were left up in the zone. And the Brewers made him pay for it. Repeatedly.

This was by far the shortest outing of Lannan’s career (previous low was three innings). The seven runs were the second-most he has ever allowed, topped only by the eight runs he surrendered against the Rockies Aug. 16, 2008. Of more concern is the extended run of poor pitching Lannan now finds himself in. He’s allowed 16 earned runs and 20 hits over his last 12 innings. His ERA has jumped from 3.39 to 4.03 during that span.

Yet he may not even take the loss tonight, because the Nats are in the process of a huge rally.

Down 8-2 in the third, the Nats loaded the bases with one out for Zimmerman, who was called out by plate umpire Mike Reilly on a check swing. The replay showed Zim clearly went around, so Reilly made the right call. But Riggleman, perhaps frustrated how this whole night was playing out, came out of the dugout to argue for the third time in three innings. Reilly had none of it and quickly gave Riggleman his first heave-ho as interim manager.

Riggleman retreated up the dugout tunnel, but he had barely taken two steps before Belliard crushed the very next pitch to left for a grand slam. Just like that, it’s 8-6, with a whole lot of baseball left to be played.

Start brewing some coffee. It’s gonna be a late night.