The Washington Times - August 23, 2009, 12:39AM

John Lannan, plain and simple, doesn’t have it right now. The de facto ace of the Nationals’ staff has been beaten around pretty good his last three starts. Over a span of 12 innings, he’s now allowed 16 runs and 20 hits.

And tonight was the low-point, perhaps of his three-year career. Lannan lasted just 1 2/3 innings against the Brewers, allowing seven runs and seven hits.


The Nats did rally from seven runs down to tie Milwaukee 8-8 in the fourth, then wound up losing 11-9 in a wild ballgame. But really, the most significant development from this one was the shortest outing of Lannan’s career. He insists his arm feels fine, and his velocity (consistently in the 89 mph range) suggests he’s telling the truth. So what’s going on?

“To tell you the truth, I’ve been feeling great in the bullpens,” Lannan said. “Everything is down [in the strike zone]. And then I get into the games, and everything seems to get up. Physically it’s nothing. I can’t put my finger on it. I’ve just got to battle through it.”

To his credit, Lannan knows he needs to do better. He’s making no excuses, and he practically apologized to his bullpen for forcing them to log 7 1/3 innings tonight. So what can he do to fix this?

“I guess it is kind of a mental challenge to get past it,” he said. “Something’s got to change, because it’s unacceptable. I’ve just got to do something about it.”

Interim manager Jim Riggleman — who got ejected in the bottom of the third after arguing his third close call of the night — feels for his young ace right now.

“I know John Lannan is doing everything he can to pitch effectively,” Riggleman said. “He’s just the ultimate professional. I love giving him the ball. He’s going to get it straightened out. He feels terrible because he knows he’s putting some guys in some situations where they’re going to pitch more than we’d like them to pitch in the bullpen.”

Back out here at 1:35 p.m. tomorrow. Craig Stammen absolutely, positively needs to give Washington six strong innings, or else things could really turn ugly.