Nationals give up eight in fourth inning, trail Yankees 8-7

TAMPA, Fla. - Things were moving along so nicely for the Nationals this afternoon. Chad Gaudin looked good through the first three innings, the team roughed up CC Sabathia and then continued to hammer Joba Chamberlain, forcing Yankees manager Joe Girardi to remove both pitchers in the middle of an inning.

And then the bottom of the fourth rolled around.

Gaudin gave up five runs, though two errors - Brian Bixler letting a ball through his legs and Gaudin’s own poor throw to first - didn’t help. And then Josh Wilkie allowed three more before the end of the inning. It’s 8-7 Yankees now, and we’re only in the top of the fifth inning.

If you can read the subtext of disdain in my words, good. Because this is some hideous baseball.

Three of the five pitchers who have appeared in this game so far - including both starters - were removed in the middle of innings. Gaudin lost control of his stuff in the fourth, leaving pitches over the plate after inducing groundouts in the first three innings. And Wilkie wasn’t much better about hitting his spots.

Bryce Harper just entered the game for the Nationals in right field, and Michael Morse has replaced Ryan Zimmerman at third base. Craig Stammen is pitching the fifth for the Nationals.

Maybe Stammen can summon the magic from what might have been his best start in the majors, when he pitched 6 1/3 shutout innings in Yankee Stadium on June 18, 2009. That game, of course, started after a 5 1/2 hour rain delay.

I was in the press box that day in New York, and I can tell you it was only slightly more tedious than this.