Entering Tuesday's game against the St. Louis Cardinals, the Nationals have a winning record and aren't even 20 games into the 2013 season, but inconsistency from night to night has produced an underwhelming start for a team with big goals in mind.
Manager Davey Johnson wishes he had the answer to what could get his team going, back on the near 100-win pace they maintained last season, but he can tell you what is going wrong. Johnson thinks it may have to do with those very expectations created by their dominant 2012 season.
"If there was some elixir I could throw out there, I'd have already used it," Johnson said.
"There's a lot of times I think they are trying to do too much. I think some of the pitchers are trying to do too much. Maybe from everybody picking us as a candidate to win our division, everybody's trying to be a little better than they need to be instead of relaxing and going out there and doing what they're capable of doing."
The pitching staff is where Johnson says the team's biggest problems exist as he thinks the offense is, in general, holding up their end as well as he would expect.
"We're hitting about what we did last year for the first two or three months, but the pitching staff is not where it was last year, the way I look at it," he said.
"Pitching has not been as consistent, we're giving up more runs. But we're hitting about what we were hitting last year."
Last season the Nats scored 69 runs through their first 19 games with a .226 team batting average. This year they have 74 runs scored at the same juncture with a .240 team average.
But after finishing 2012 with the second best team ERA in the majors (3.33), the Nats are currently 20th at 4.10. They are among the league's ten worst teams in homers allowed, WHIP, and batting average against.
Though the results haven't been there, Johnson hopes the pitching can catch up to his lineup and get the team back to winnings games like they are expected to.
"I don't really worry about it because I know the talent is there," he said. "I tell them every spring, just take care of number one and don't worry about the overall picture."
"There's not too much you can do about it. Just keep a positive attitude and don't read the papers."
Nats claim lefty Xavier Cedeno off waivers
The Nationals acquired left-handed relief pitcher Xavier Cedeno on Tuesday by claiming him off waivers from the Houston Astros. Cedeno, 26, will be optioned to Triple-A Syracuse.
The three-year MLB veteran pitched in five games with Houston this season, posting a 11.37 ERA with 10 earned runs in 6 1/3 innings pitched. In 2012 he held a 3.77 ERA through 44 relief appearances.
A 31st round pick by the Colorado Rockies in the 2004 MLB Draft, Cedeno made his major league debut in 2011 after being out of baseball in 2010. In 52 total big league games he has a 6.00 career ERA with 39 strikeouts in 39 innings.