- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Washington Nationals have played nine games at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia since John Lannan’s big league debut last summer in which he broke Phillies star Chase Utley’s hand and ultimately was ejected.

Yet when Lannan takes the mound in the City of Brotherly Love on Friday night, it will mark his first appearance in a game there since that July 2007 afternoon.

Lannan has managed to avoid Philadelphia for more than a year. He wasn’t on the active roster for last September’s season-finale series because the club shut him down after he set a career high in innings pitched. He also wasn’t on the major league roster for this season’s early April series because, as the club’s fifth starter, he wasn’t needed for another week. And though he was there in person for last month’s three-game series, his turn in the rotation didn’t come up.

All of which leaves the young left-hander wondering what might await him this weekend.

“You think they’re going to boo? I don’t know,” he said. “We’ll have to see. When they say my name, I’m going to be like [cupping his ear] and see. But I don’t think they’re going to boo.”

Lannan may not be giving the Philadelphia fans enough credit. Fans were irate last summer when Utley was sent to the disabled list after getting plunked by the rookie hurler, who later was ejected for hitting Ryan Howard (even though both sides considered it accidental).

Lannan, though, is less concerned with the fans’ reaction to him and more interested in their overall mood heading into the season’s final weekend. Because he wasn’t around for the same situation last fall, when the Phillies clinched the National League East title on the final day of the season, he’s looking forward to experiencing a festive scene.

“I’m just excited to see them wave all the towels,” he said. “I watched that last year on TV, and I just wished I was there. So it’s going to be cool to be there this year.”

Lannan’s first priority will be attempting to secure his 10th win of the season, a modest goal he set for himself two weeks ago (along with reaching 20 quality starts and a sub-4.00 ERA). He already has met the latter two.

“I still need to get that 10th win,” he said.

Power outage

Barring a sudden surge over the season’s final days, the Nationals will end 2008 without a 20-homer player for the first time since coming to town.

Ryan Zimmerman and Lastings Milledge were tied for the team lead with 14 homers entering Wednesday night’s game. That’s the lowest homer total for a team leader in the majors, just behind the San Francisco Giants (Bengie Molina has 15).

The Nationals also don’t have a high RBI player. Milledge took over the team lead Tuesday night with his 60th, also the lowest team high in the majors and among the lowest in the sport in the last two decades.

Since 1988, only the 2007 Kansas City Royals have failed to have a player reach 67 RBI. Right fielder Emil Brown led them with 62 RBI.

Washington has an excuse considering all the injuries that ravaged this season’s roster.

“Zimmerman lost more than 50 games … and he’s leading the club in home runs,” manager Manny Acta said. “[Elijah] Dukes has lost a lot of time. If you project his at-bats, he’s a guy who’s going to hit 25 to 30. Nick [Johnson] is a guarantee 20-plus if he’s healthy. I don’t want to sound like I’m making excuses, but it is what it is.”

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