An important weekend for the Nationals
The Nationals have an important series this weekend, which begins tonight in Baltimore against the atrocious Orioles. The Nationals, despite their dispiriting, 1-0 loss Wednesday to the Royals, won the series. To give you an idea how bad the Orioles are, the 20-52 record actually puts them two games behind the pace of last year's Nationals. They have an opportunity to string together some victories and put their June swoon behind them.
The most important thing that happens tonight, though, may come a few hours away in Harrisburg, Pa., where John Lannan will make his first minor league since the Nationals demoted him to Class AA. It was not a demotion in a punishing way, but in a rehabilitative way. They need Lannan, with help from Class AA Harrisburg pitching coach Randy Tomlin, to fix himself. The sooner, the Nationals say, the better.
"I hope very much it's short-term, because John is very important to our staff," Manager Jim Riggleman said. "His performance down there will have something to say about that, but mainly not so much in terms of the statistics. More so in whether he's getting groundballs or not. If they're hitting the ball on the ground against him, we'll feel like we can bring him back up here and he can have success. If he's not having success, then we'll wait 'til he is getting balls on the ground. I'm hoping it will be soon that he's back."
As Lannan starts to figure it out, the Nationals offense will have to do the same. Their problem is one of the most essential parts of baseball: They are not putting the ball in play or getting on base enough. In June, they have 157 strikeouts, sixth most in the majors, and 52 walks, fifth-least in the majors. Not surprisingly, their 3.29 runs per game in June is least in the National League.
The Orioles, naturally, could provide an elixir for that problem. Their staff's 1.76 strikeout-to-walk ratio is third-worst in the majors. The season is not yet half over, and getting close to contention is still possible. There's no better chance for the Nationals to get there than right now.
June 25, 2010; 1:59 PM ET
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