- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 6, 2007

CHICAGO — There are days pitchers can’t find the plate, and then there days pitchers can’t find the plate with the Hubble Space Telescope.

Such was life for Levale Speigner yesterday. The Washington Nationals rookie right-hander was summoned from the bullpen in the third inning after starter John Patterson left with soreness in his right biceps and proceeded to live out a nightmare on the Wrigley Field mound.

Speigner inherited a 3-1 count on Chicago Cubs outfielder Matt Murton and proceeded to complete a walk that was charged to Patterson. With the bases now loaded, he walked Mark DeRosa on four pitches. Then he walked opposing pitcher Rich Hill on five pitches, forcing in another run. After striking out Alfonso Soriano, Speigner walked Ryan Theriot on five pitches to allow yet another run to score.

By the time the 26-year-old departed, he had thrown 16 of his 24 pitches for balls.

“It’s just one of those bad days where you start off like that and then you start to force things and it just gets worse,” he said.

Though his overall numbers this season are solid — a 2.84 ERA in 11 appearances — Speigner has been plagued by control problems from the beginning. He already has issued 11 walks in 122/3 innings, a source of much frustration on his part.

“I hate walking guys,” he said. “It’s unacceptable. Free passes are things I don’t like giving up, and I’ve given up way too many.”

Backward Bowie

Micah Bowie remains one of the Nationals’ most-effective relievers, owner of a 3.21 ERA in a team-high 17 appearances. But the veteran left-hander sure isn’t enjoying his success in a conventional manner.

Generally regarded as a left-handed specialist, Bowie has been far more effective against right-handed hitters. Righties are batting just .103 (3-for-29), while lefties are hitting a robust .381 (8-for-21).

Bowie was at a loss when searching for an explanation for the anomaly.

“It’s just one of those things,” he said. “Normally, it wouldn’t be that way. I guess maybe the righties are just hitting them at them and the lefties aren’t.”

Actually, Bowie’s career numbers suggest this isn’t necessarily out of the ordinary. In 65 career major league games, he has held right-handed hitters to a .284 average, while lefties have hit .358 against him.

That doesn’t mean manager Manny Acta’s about to alter Bowie’s role in the bullpen and turn him into a right-handed specialist.

“I’m not planning right now having Micah just face righties,” Acta said. “I think it’s just coincidence right now and not enough at-bats. And if it happens that way, then we have a problem on our hands.”

Extra bases

Catcher Brian Schneider got the day off, with rookie Jesus Flores making his sixth career start behind the plate. Schneider, who has four hits in his last 10 at-bats, will be back in the lineup today. …

Kory Casto made his first regular-season appearance at first base, moving in from left field as part of a double switch in the seventh inning. Casto, who played outfield, third base and second base while coming up through the minors, only started learning how to play first this spring. “It was all right,” he said. “It was a little different look.” …

Cubs slugger Alfonso Soriano extended his hitting streak to 14 games with an eighth-inning single. The ex-Nationals outfielder is one game short of matching his career-best streak, set three different times.

Want more Nats? Check out Nats Home Plate.

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