Nationals starting pitchers have placed the team in some precarious situations this season.
Washington hasn’t been able to keep opposing teams off the scoreboard early — allowing the most first-inning runs in the majors.
Before Tuesday night’s game against the Reds, the Nationals had surrendered 42 runs in first innings, eight more than the second-place White Sox. In addition, Washington has given up eight runs in the first inning over the previous 10 games.
To put this into context, the Nationals have given up a total of 173 runs in 2014. This means almost a quarter of Washington’s runs allowed have come in the first.
Washington’s pitchers improve over the course of games, though. In second innings, the Nationals have given up 24 runs, seventh-most in the league. In third innings, that number drops to 10, which is actually the fourth-fewest. The numbers fluctuate until the ninth inning, in which the Nationals have given up only three runs all season, the fewest in baseball.
The worst slow starters have been Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg and Tanner Roark. Gonzalez holds a 12.00 ERA in first innings, allowing 18 hits and two home runs in nine starts. Strasburg has a 7.20 ERA in first innings with 18 hits and three home runs surrendered in 10 starts. Roark holds a 5.63 ERA in first innings, with seven hits and one home run given up in eight starts.
It’s certainly not a way the Nationals prefer to start games. However, Washington’s bats have made up for the early-inning pitching woes. No team has made more comebacks at the plate than the Nationals during the first quarter of the 2014 season.
Before Tuesday, the Nationals have recovered from early deficits in 12 of their 23 wins. From the seventh inning on, the Nationals have scored 40 more runs than their opponents. Even in Monday’s 4-3 loss to the Reds in 15 innings, Washington rallied from a 2-0 deficit, scoring a run apiece in the seventh and ninth innings to tie the game.
If the Nationals can fix their first-inning problems, they could prove to be a tough out as the season progresses.
“We’ve got to score more runs and play clean baseball,” shortstop Ian Desmond said. “It’s as simple as that.”