WASHINGTON -- Joe Blanton pointed to a small mechanical issue as the reason for his struggles to begin the season.
During his appearance in the eighth inning on Saturday afternoon against the Phillies, he tried to throw the ball up and in to Cesar Hernandez, but his fastball drifted down and over the middle of the plate. Hernandez crushed it for a two-run homer as the Phillies handed the Nationals a 4-2 loss at Nationals Park.
Blanton has now given up three homers and five runs overall in seven innings this season.
On one hand, Blanton believes the fix is minor and he could be back to the pitcher the Nationals expected when they signed him as a free agent this offseason. On the other hand, Blanton has not been able to correct it up to this point and has surrendered at least one run in four of his last five appearances.
"It's frustrating because you know why it's happening," Blanton said. "You know you're not executing. You know it's mechanical. Sometimes things take a little longer. But at the same time, there's a positivity to it that it's something you can fix instead of, 'Wow, I feel good and I don't know what's happening.'"
Blanton is not alone in his struggles. The entire Nationals' bullpen has started off shaky to begin the season. It has recorded just two scoreless outings as a unit in its 11 games this season. Hernandez's homer marked the 10th allowed by a Nats reliever; their starting pitchers have only surrendered two.
"There's no explanation," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "I mean, it's been almost everybody. ... We just have to figure out how to make quality pitches."
The good news for Blanton and the Nationals -- and the one they have often repeated -- is that it is early.
"Sometimes it's about grinding through it," Blanton said. "It's a long season. Everybody has those bouts here and there. That's mine right now. Hopefully, I can squash it, and it doesn't come back."
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.