- The Washington Times - Friday, August 1, 2008

On a deadline day featuring big names changing zip codes, Nationals Park felt like the furthest outpost in Major League Baseball from all the excitement.

There were flickers of activity - breathless reports that died almost as soon as they were cross-checked and a swap for an infielder headed to the Washington Nationals‘ major league roster but not expected to help much this season.

And the result on the field engendered little hope. By the time the night was done, the Nationals had lost to the Philadelphia Phillies 8-4, tied their longest losing streak of the season at nine, seen their most promising starter get roughed up and sent their franchise player to the clubhouse for an x-ray.

The loss dropped the Nationals to 38-70. They didn’t lose their 70th game until Aug. 22 last season. The postgame releases of Paul Lo Duca, Johnny Estrada and Felipe Lopez - whose 2008 salaries surpassed $11 million combined - underscored the message that whatever redeeming quality comes out of this season won’t be based on the team that started the season.

“It’s been a crazy year,” third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. “It seems like anything that can go wrong has.”

Like on Thursday, when there was little to like about promising left-hander John Lannan. The subject of a bizarre rumor at the beginning of the day that had him going to the Chicago White Sox for an unspecified package in return, Lannan (6-11) had one of his worst outings of the season.

The Phillies scored eight runs (six earned) off Lannan on nine hits and three walks. Lannan also hit Shane Victorino on the second at-bat of the game, walked three and threw a wild pitch as part of a three-run second inning for Philadelphia.

“It was kind of out of the blue. I tried not to think of it too much,” Lannan said of the rumors. “My slider and curveball broke in, my fastball felt good. I just didn’t make pitches when I needed to.”

The Nationals also got a scare when Zimmerman was hit on the right hand by a pitch while trying to check his swing in the third inning and immediately leapt out of the batter’s box in pain. Zimmerman eventually scored the Nationals’ second run but left after the inning. An X-ray on his hand was negative, and he is day-to-day with a contusion.

He said he might have an MRI but didn’t seem concerned the bruise would keep him out more than a day or two. Still, it was another unsettling moment in a night filled with them.

The Nationals did little against Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick, and gave multiple chances to an offense that knows how to use them.

One came in the fourth, when Kendrick struck out but didn’t realize Jesus Flores had dropped the third strike. Flores tried to tag Kendrick, then lobbed a throw toward Kory Casto at first. Casto jumped to retrieve the throw and couldn’t touch the bag before Kendrick reached safely. Then Jimmy Rollins hit a 2-0 pitch to left field for a two-run homer.

“I was just trying to throw a ball on the outside part of the plate,” Lannan said. “The ball cut in and he got a good piece of it.”

The Nationals’ team picture will be taken Friday at 2:30 p.m. It could include players putting on the team’s uniform for the last time as well as players who haven’t met all their teammates yet, like new shortstop Alberto Gonzalez, who arrived from the Yankees in a trade Thursday.

“The last thing we can do is get frustrated by what happened yesterday, or a week ago,” Zimmerman said. “We’ll continue to try and win, and maybe shake a few things up.”



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