By this point, the Nationals' emphasis on defense has been discussed over and over, and after the first month of the season, it was becoming trite.
The team was still at the top of the National League in errors, and without Ryan Zimmerman, its offense was struggling to score enough runs. Josh Willingham and Adam Dunn - the two bats the Nationals subtracted from their lineup in an effort to get better defensively - got off to poor starts with their new teams, but their absence seemed to be a constant reminder to fans of what the team gave up for a defense that wasn't playing much better than it had in the past.
Since the start of May, though, the Nationals have started to reap the benefits of their defense-first approach. They've only made one error this month - a throwing mistake by shortstop Ian Desmond on May 4 in Philadelphia - and that accounted for the only unearned run they've allowed. And despite being outscored by eight runs this month, the Nationals are 5-4.
They still haven't made a big jump in statistical categories because of the 22 errors they made in March and April, but they've at least moved up to 10th in the National League in fielding percentage and UZR.
Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal wrote last week that Desmond has been working with former major league manager Larry Bowa, who's drilling the shortstop on the importance of charging ground balls, rather than waiting on them and rushing a throw. And since he came back from paternity leave at the end of April, Desmond has seemed smoother and more confident at short. He's got the range to be a top-end shortstop, but his mistakes on routine plays have always hurt him. If he's getting beyond those, the Nationals might have the makings of an elite defensive middle infield with Desmond and Danny Espinosa.
For all their improvements defensively, the Nationals still need to score more runs; they've totaled 30 in nine games this month, and that was with seven (four of them unearned) against the Braves last night. They're still getting by on a pitching staff that's probably performing over its head.
But if they're truly on the way to cleaning up their defensive mistakes, they'll have removed a significant obstacle to their new approach working.