The Nationals have allowed three runs or more in 10 of their 42 games this season.
Yes, 10 of their 42. I'm sure that's both shocking and frustrating to manager Matt Williams and company.
What can be done to fix it?
Well, the Nats say that they've gone back and looked at how their starters are warming up compared to previous years. They've studied the number of pitches their starters have thrown in the bullpen. They've looked at how their starters are getting loose before an outing.
And according to Williams, nothing has changed from past seasons, when these first-inning issues weren't present.
"We've gone back three years, and it's been logged how many pitches they throw in the bullpen prior to games. It has not changed," Williams said last night. "So to put a finger on it, I can't. Within two or three pitches, they've all been the same. Gio (Gonzalez) in his 21-(win) year, did the same thing. There's nothing to put your finger on to say, 'This is why.'
"It's just the way it's been. A lot of them, we've come back. Today we couldn't. Go get 'em tomorrow."
Despite Gonzalez allowing five runs in three innings yesterday, the Nats still had a chance in the late innings. That's thanks, largely, to Craig Stammen, who delivered four scoreless innings in relief.
Stammen now has a 2.52 ERA in 13 games this season. He's struck out 20 and walked just four, and has allowed fewer than one baserunner per inning.
The righty hasn't appeared in many tight games, but he's done tremendous work to keep the Nats in ballgames and eat innings.
"There's not a lot of long relievers that go down in history, but he's well on his way," said shortstop Ian Desmond, heaping praise on Stammen, whose work might often go unrecognized. "This guy is unbelievable. I think for a lot of other Major League Baseball teams, this guy would be a starter. It's invaluable what he brings to this team. We've seen it over the last few years. It's impressive every time he goes out there. He knows how he wants to attack the hitters. He goes at it with conviction. And it's fun to play behind him."
In seven of Stammen's 13 appearances this season, he's entered a game where the margin has been at least four runs.
"That's what makes it that much more impressive," Desmond said. "Because (opposing hitters) ... generally they have the lead and they're confident going up to the plate. And he comes in and humbles them real quick for the most part. I can't say enough. This guy is a tremendous asset to our ballclub. I don't think anybody here sees him (as) unappreciated. We all appreciate the work he puts in and the effort he gives you every time."
As for Desmond, he has at least one hit in five of his last six games, and is 7-for-23 (.318) in those six contests, with a triple and two homers. That stretch has boosted his average to .228 on the season, still not where he wants to be, but a step in the right direction.
"Getting there. It's a work in progress," Desmond said. "A continual work in progress. The thing that's tough is maintaining the character and all the other stuff while you're going through this stuff. That's the hardest part. Going 0-for-4 or 15 or 30 or whatever, that's all stuff we've gone through. Maintaining your personality, that's a struggle. And that's what I'm kind of grinding through right now."