"I thought about it a little bit, and I'm trying to figure out the what and
why," Robinson said. "That's the thing; there's no real answer to it. You
look at video to see if he's doing something different, like out of the
stretch or his windup, and all you see is his pitches coming in too much
over the plate."
Vargas sustained a right elbow sprain early in Spring Training that landed
him on the disabled list until May 10. He went 2-2 with a 4.18 ERA in five
rehab starts for New Orleans before making his season debut at Arizona on May
11. In the desert, Vargas pitched masterfully, going six innings and not
allowing an earned run.
He has yet to duplicate that impressive performance, though. Instead, Vargas
has put his team well behind the 8-ball before the game is half over.
"The table is set on this ballclub with starting pitching," Robinson said.
"Our offense is not geared to score a lot of runs. It's not built to come
back from big deficits. It's built to mainly play close ballgames. That's
what is so disheartening as far as Claudio, because in the first couple of
innings, he's pitched us out of ballgames."
Vargas is scheduled to pitch the final game of the upcoming three-game
series against Cincinnati on Wednesday. For now, Robinson will give the
youngster every opportunity to work out of his funk.
"Everybody is trying to win today, and this year," Robinson said. "Too much
emphasis is put on winning. You have to teach and develop, even at this
level. If you have the talent, you're going to win your share of ball
games. That's why you have to stick with a guy like Vargas. You can't give
him just one or two starts and then pull him out because then the guy is in
a bad mental state. The next time he's out there, he gives up one or two
quick runs, and he's looking over his shoulder and wondering when he's going
to be taken out of the ballgame."
Heading into Sunday's series finale against the Blue Jays, the Nationals'
offense had been offensive, scoring just seven runs in their last
Part of the problem has been the inability to get the key hit after the club
strings together a couple of knocks.
"Every man has to try to do a little bit, and not try to do it all,"
Center fielder Brad Wilkerson agreed, saying that a hitting slump can
sometimes grow into an unmanageable force.
"A lot of times when you're struggling you start pressing, and that's what
we're doing right now," said Wilkerson, who is on the shelf for at least the
immediate future with an injured forearm. "We just have to go up there and
relax and battle each and every at-bat."
Jose Guillen, whom the Nationals rely on for the pop in their offense, knows
that things aren't clicking on all cylinders, both at the plate and on the
mound. But patience, Guillen said, is a virtue.
"I'm not hitting well, and some of the other guys aren't hitting well, and
we're not pitching well, but what can you do?" said Guillen, who leads the
team with eight home runs, of which five of them came in his first nine
games. "You're going to go through those tough stretches where you're not
going to hit and you're not going to pitch well, but one day we're going to
come out and we're going to do well. It's part of the game."
Castilla lifted early:
Third baseman Vinny Castilla was replaced in the third inning Sunday by
Henry Blanco because of soreness in his left knee. Castilla struck out in
the second, and didn't return.
Reserve catcher Gary Bennett replaced Brian Schneider in Sunday's lineup.
Robinson noted that Schneider's yanking was due more to his recent problems
at the plate than giving his starting catcher the afternoon off.
Schneider is hitting just .048 (1-for-21) in his last seven games.
Patterson still battling pain:
Righty John Patterson was expected to throw a side session Sunday in the
hopes of getting back into the rotation later this week. Patterson is
sidelined with back spasms, and hasn't started since garnering a no-decision
in Washington's win over Chicago May 15.
Sign of the day:
A couple of fans in attendance Sunday were wearing Montreal Expos caps while
holding up a sign that read, "Montreal fans forever -- See you in a couple
The Nationals continue their nine-game road trip Monday as they travel to
Cincinnati to begin a three-game series with the Reds. Esteban Loaiza (1-2,
3.08 ERA) will get the start for Washington, while Cincinnati will counter with
lefty Eric Milton (2-5, 7.16 ERA).