Doug Slaten last year was one of the more overlooked, underrated pieces on the Nationals. He inherited 26 base runners and allowed only four to score. He held lefties to 11 hits in 73 at-bats, all singles – they slugged .151 against him. He pitched in 49 games despite arriving in midseason. He was durable, he got out of jams and he retired lefties. That was his job, and he did it well.

There is a gulf between what Slaten did then and what he’s doing now, and he can’t figure it out. “That’s a good question,” Slaten said last night. “I don’t have an answer for it.”

Last night, Slaten’s rocky season continued. He entered with the bases loaded to face left-handed batter Stephen Drew. He threw three balls, then served up a 90-mph fastball over the plate. Drew bashed a three-run triple. Slaten’s night was over, another appearance he’d prefer to forget in the books.

Slaten has inherited 30 runners this year, and 15 have scored. Lefties are 9 for 28 against him with three doubles, a homer and a triple – they’re slugging .607 against him. He is not getting out lefties and he’s not getting out of jams. Manager Jim Riggleman thinks Slaten may not be feeling good physically.

“Slate’s a gamer,” Manager Jim Riggleman said. “He gives you everything he has. I’m not convinced Slaten feels good. His gun readings are what they are. They’re pretty much the same as they were. But when you’re missing with your pitches, you’re not confident to throw your slider for a strike and run your fastball in on guys.

“I don’t know that he’s really 100 percent right now. The results are so different than what we had seen last year. I check with him all the time. He says, ‘I’m fine, I’m fine.’ I know he’s better than this, you know?”

While hinting Slaten may be hurt, Riggleman said the Nationals are not concerned, at the moment, about Slaten spending time on the disabled list. Slaten said he feels fine, healthy. Both he and the Nationals know he’s capable of getting his job done. Right now, he simply isn’t.