Nationals Are Off to a Sloppy Start

Defense, pitching have struggled early in the season

April 15, 2013

The Nationals entered Monday’s game with the most errors (12) in the majors.

The Nationals’ defense was solid last year, but it has seen its fair share of lapses to open the 2013 season.

On their way to the NL East title in 2012, the Nats committed 94 errors — which ranked fourth-best in the National League. Washington’s 12 errors prior to this week’s Miami series were the worst in the majors.

“It’s still early in the season,” shortstop Ian Desmond said. “Obviously we’d like to play better since we’re not playing our best. I guess we’ve learned that. But it’s April. Fortunately for us, there are a lot of games left.”

Desmond has committed four errors. Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who had a team-high 19 in 2012, has accounted for three.

The Nationals are 3-5 in games when they have committed an error.

“I think there’s been some misfortune, a couple of tough plays turned into errors,” center fielder Denard Span said. “There’s no question we have a good, solid defense. We probably need to buckle down and concentrate.”

Making matters worse has been a pitching staff that’s not living up to the lofty expectations. Gio Gonzalez struggled Sunday against Atlanta, surrendering seven earned runs in five innings.

Dan Haren, a free agent acquisition this offseason, has posted a 9.00 ERA in two starts. Stephen Strasburg has begun the year 1-2. Before the Miami series began Monday, Washington’s bullpen had given up six home runs and was 29th in the majors with a 5.90 ERA.

“We’re not quite where we need to be — bullpen or pitching,” Nationals manager Davey Johnson said.

Washington has more than enough time to correct its early mishaps.

“You can’t judge a team on the first [few] games,” Gonzalez said. “It’s impossible. You have to give us a chance.”

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Jeffrey Tomik · April 15, 2013