|Barry Bonds's quest took no significant twists last night; he was 0 for 3, including this foul pop. (JED JACOBSOH/GETTY IMAGES)|
Standup guy Lannan keeps Bonds at bay
SAN FRANCISCO -- Washington Nationals first baseman Dmitri Young is admittedly not a big fan of Barry Bonds, but after Bonds went 0 for 3 with a walk last night at AT&T Park, Young had to be impressed with kid teammate John Lannan, a 22-year-old lefthander who stood up to the mighty slugger in a hostile environment.
Young's hope was that Lannan -- making only his third major league start -- could see beyond the national attention that was staring him square in the eye. With Bonds on the verge of breaking Hank Aaron's career home run record, this was far more intense than anything a kid who started the season in Single A ball could have imagined.
Bonds, who tied Aaron with No. 755 Saturday night in San Diego, then sat out Sunday's game, had to be salivating.
But Lannan, a Long Island native and an 11th-round selection in the 2005 draft out of Siena College, went seven innings, allowing one run on eight hits. He walked five and fanned only two, but the strikeout he'll remember came against Bonds in the seventh inning. After a steady diet of fastballs away, Lannan got Bonds swinging with a curveball on a 3-and-2 pitch. Bonds took two vicious cuts in that at-bat and missed both times.
In the first inning, Bonds fouled out to third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who made a nice running catch near the railing. In the third, Bonds drew a walk as Lannan kept the ball as far away as possible, though Bonds had a chance to get No. 756 on an 89 m.p.h. fastball down the middle that he didn't offer at on 3-and-0. In the fifth, Lannan got Bonds to knock into a 6-5-3 double play, with the Nationals employing an infield shift.
This was really a guy Bonds should have devoured. Lannan never threw faster than 90 m.p.h.; most of the time his fastball peaked at 89. Lannan stuck by the standard scouting report on Bonds, which says to pitch him away. Bonds's record-tying homer came on a pitch away, but it was left high in the strike zone by Padres righty Clay Hensley.
Lannan, who was a combined 12-5 with a 2.35 ERA in 19 minor league starts at three levels this year, somehow got the job done. This is a guy Nationals officials will say quite frankly was barely on their radar as someone who would come up and help them this season.
While Lannan is an underdog, Young is the anti-Bonds.
An admitted alcohol and drug abuser who has come clean about his problems, Young sought professional help and turned his life around. After nearly dying from a diabetic reaction this past offseason, he has inspired many around him by admitting his mistakes and sins and moving on from them.
Players in general are very kind to Bonds, very respectful of the record he's about to break. They obviously admire Bonds's ability, even though it may have been artificially enhanced. To date, the only active player who has stepped up and ripped Bonds for his alleged steroid use is Curt Schilling. No one else has dared.
Young didn't go that far either, but when asked whether he was rooting for Bonds, he raised his eyebrows a few times and said, "I don't know how you can write this."
Young has never warmed up to Bonds, and it has nothing to do with whether the Giants slugger did or he didn't juice. Young is a gregarious guy, one who has done his share of awful things and lived to tell about them. But he loves people and loves engaging in dialogue. From that perspective, he never has been impressed with Bonds.
"It would be nice if he just talked to someone," Young said.
Bonds long has had a reputation for being surly and treating those around him shabbily. In the past couple of years, that has changed somewhat. You hear better things about him, and he now has an entire clubhouse of teammates who say the right things about him and often answer questions on his behalf when he's not talking.
Former Red Sox outfielder Dave Roberts even said the Giants were planning a big party for him this week if he breaks the home run mark.
But when Young was asked how he felt about Bonds breaking the record, he said, "I'm indifferent about it."
Young was a teammate of Bonds's on the National League squad for this season's All-Star Game and brought his children to the festivities.
"The kids had a great time," said Young. "They spoke to almost everyone."
Though the Nationals lost in extra innings last night, 3-2 -- after Young put them ahead with a homer in the 10th -- Young got part of what he wished for: Lannan didn't give up Bonds's record-breaker.
"No, I wouldn't want to see that, because the kid has to live that down," Young said. "If it's a veteran guy, that's different because that guy would have been around the game for a long time and it would be cool when he looked back on it. But this is this kid's third major league start.
"You don't want that, but I'm sure he would handle it fine if it did happen."
Bonds had said Sunday that he knew of Lannan but knew nothing about him.
Mr. Bonds, meet Mr. Lannan.
Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org