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The Nationals’ underperforming offense is an obvious problem. They’re scoring 0.3 runs per game fewer than they did through their first 69 contests in 2012, and they’ve let countless well-pitched games slip away because of ineffective offense — often against pitchers other teams seem to have little trouble crushing.

But if it’s forcing the Nationals’ pitchers to change their thinking on the mound, to fear that anything less than perfection will result in another loss — for them and the team — it becomes an additional issue.

And it’s often only natural for the pitchers to begin to feel that way.

“[I tell them], ‘I don’t worry and I don’t want you guys to worry about what we score,’” said pitching coach Steve McCatty. “‘You go out and pitch and do your best to keep them from scoring.’ You’ve got to be willing to trade an out for the run. You don’t like giving up runs but you’re willing to do it because it’s one instead of three.

“Am I worried that it’s playing on their minds? I hope not because we talk about it: ‘You can’t worry about what we score.’ If they’re starting to do that, you’re pitching not to lose, instead of to win. I think that’s a real precarious situation to get to when you pitch.”

For now, all they can do is hope that it doesn’t remain an issue for long.

“We’ve struggled, but there’s a whole lot of the season ahead of us,” Johnson said. “I look at it like things happen for a reason. I think this is good. Struggle now, learn how to come back.”