"I just couldn't get into any kind of rhythm, and that's twice in a row now.  I feel fine. I don't know what's going on."  John Lannan, June 15, 2010

THE RESULT:  John Lannan has been the best starter the Washington Nationals had have the last two seasons.  This year, however, has been a different story for the left-hander.  He's been less effective, spent time on the disabled list, and now, at a loss to explain his troubles.

Monday night, the mystery continued, as he allowed seven runs (six earned) on 10 hits and four walks, lasting just 4 1/3 innings, and the Nats fell to the Detroit Tigers, 7-4, before 24,821 at Comerica Park.

Lannan's opposite number, Max Scherzer, has had a bit of a schizophrenic year as well.  Brought over in a big trade with Arizona, he was thought to be a centerpiece of a dominant Detroit pitching staff, and is the owner of a 14-strikeout game this season.  But he also was so ineffective early this season that he was banished to Triple-A and spent two weeks in the minors tweaking his delivery.

As the Nationals (31-34) can now start to really envison several pitchers returning from the disabled list, Lannan (L, 2-4, 5.45) hopes to avoid that particular scenario.

Scherzer (W, 3-6, 6.14) was effective enough Monday to limit the Nats to four run--three earned--on seven hits and two walks, striking out nine.

And his bullpen was perfect, as three relievers no-hitting the Nats for three innings.

Once again, Lannan's defense let him down.  The big blow in the game was Ryan Raburn's three-run home run in the fifth inning, immediately after Cristian Guzman botched a potential double-play ball.  Raburn, who entered the game hitting .165, went 3-for-4 with four RBIs.

THE TAKEAWAY:  Lannan is a "pitch-to-contact" guy, and since he doesn't miss many bats relies on the ground balls that he generates ending up in fielder's mitts.  That hasn't happened this year with as much regularity as in past seasons. 

He only gave up three extra base hits out of the 10 total, so it's not like he was getting pounded.  But if you aren't going to strike anyone out, you have to depend on luck that the batter balls are hit somewhere they can be caught. 

Take for instance the Tigers' third run of the game:  Leadoff double and two ground outs leads to a run.  Lannan is pitching to contact there, presumably doing his job.  But it's tough to succeed when you can't miss bats.

It certainly doens't help when you defense lets you down, as it has in Lannan's last three starts.

THE GOOD:  Nyjer Morgan (2-for-5, 2 R, 2 SB).  That's the Morgan folks want to see.  Generated a run in the first inning all by himself with a bunt single, stolen base, extra base on bad throw, and score on a sacrifice fly.

Josh Willingham went 2-for-3 with another walk and Michael Morse homered.

Tyler Walker and Sean Burnett combined for 3 2/3 scoreless relief.

THE BAD:  Guzman went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts from the leadoff spot in addition to his big error.  Ian Desmond went 0-for-4 and Adam Dunn 0-for-3 with 3 Ks as well.

THE UGLY:  The Nationals lead major league baseball in errors, and it's not even close.  Guzman's kick was the team's 58th this season.  The next closest is Florida with 52 and Detroit with 48.

NEXT GAME:  Today at Detroit.  Livan Hernandez (5-3, 2.28) faces Justin Verlander (7-4, 3.56) at 7:05 pm from Comerica Park.