The Nationals filed an official protest of Friday's game with the Padres just before it started, saying the Padres had made an unannounced substitution by putting Clayton Richard on the mound instead of Adam Russell, who was sent to Triple-A Portland on Friday but was listed on the lineup card the Padres turned into the umpires. Richard had been listed as the Padres' probable starter all along, but there was a mix-up somewhere along the line.
What does it mean? Probably not much. The umpires accepted the protest, and if the Nationals lose, they could get Major League Baseball to order the game replayed. But in all likelihood, the result will stand. And since the Nationals lead 3-1 after six innings (Josh Willingham's 10th homer of the year has been the difference so far), they wouldn't have much more to say if that holds up.
The official MLB rules that govern what happened are Nos. 3.05 and 4.01; 3.05 says an improper pitcher becomes legal if he is permitted to pitch, which is why the Nationals had to protest before Richard threw his first pitch on Friday night. But rule 4.01 says teams should not be "trapped" by a mistake that was obvious to everyone and can be corrected.
So we're playing on here, and the protest likely has no practical meaning, even though it is the first game played under protest since 1986. John Lannan has given up six hits, and has again struggled to hit his spots, but he got a key double play in the middle of what could have been a big fourth inning for the Padres. Willingham's homer is one of only three hits for the Nationals, but it's been enough so far.