WASHINGTON -- Consistency had been one of Chien-Ming Wang's calling cards during his successful seasons with the Yankees. That's why he twice won 19 games and was one of the American League's better starters at one point.
But he hasn't been able to find that consistency in Washington. Wang spent most of the first two months on the disabled list due to hamstring problems and has struggled in his four starts since joining the rotation. The right-hander had problems again Tuesday night, lasting only 3 1/3 innings in Tampa Bay's 5-4 victory over Washington before 27,835 at Nationals Park.
Wang (2-3) again had troubles with location and command as the Nationals (38-27) dropped their fourth straight game. He threw 77 pitches in those 3 1/3 innings and gave up five runs on seven hits with three walks and one strikeout.
The righty hasn't lasted longer than 5 1/3 innings, and manager Davey Johnson clearly was concerned about his No. 5 starter.
"He's been having some problems with his delivery," Johnson said. "He was rushing. For him to throw that many pitches and walk [three] ... it's just not him. His arm strength is back, but he's still trying to do too much and not getting in position to locate the ball well."
Wang agreed that location was the big problem once again.
"It's kind of frustrating for me right now because I was trying to locate my ball today, but it wasn't going the way I want," Wang said through an interpreter. "I just couldn't locate the ball pretty well today."
The Rays (38-29) got a run in the first, opening the game with three straight singles. B.J. Upton's single made it 1-0, but Wang needed 26 pitches to get through that inning. Danny Espinosa singled and scored on first baseman Carlos Pena's error to tie the game in the bottom of the inning.
Ian Desmond gave the Nationals a 2-1 lead with a solo homer off starter David Price (9-4) in the second, but the Rays scored four off Wang in the third to take command. Pena hit a two-run homer to give Tampa Bay the lead, and Elliot Johnson's two-run triple made it 5-2.
Ross Detwiler came on for Wang in the fourth and threw 3 2/3 hitless innings. The left-hander struck out three and threw 36 strikes on 48 pitches in one of his best efforts this season.
"I just wanted to go in there and try to hold them down and give us a chance to win," Detwiler said. "I tried to get in rhythm, tried to stay in a regular flow. That's the only way I'm going to be effective, if I stay in rhythm that way."
He also kept Washington in the game. Michael Morse made it closer with his first homer of the season, a two-run shot in the sixth that stood up after video review and cut the deficit to 5-4.
"That's a good team," said Price, who went seven innings. "They've got some good right-handed bats in that lineup. They try and threaten every inning, they got guys on base and they plug away."
The Nationals added to the excitement in the eighth when former Washington pitcher Joel Peralta came in for Tampa Bay and was ejected when the umpires found pine tar on the inside of his glove. Peralta never threw a pitch because Johnson asked the umpires to check his glove during warm-ups before the inning.
But the Nationals couldn't come back. They didn't get a hit after Morse's homer in the sixth. Fernando Rodney closed it for Tampa Bay in the ninth with his 20th save.
Still, afterward, the Wang mystery was one of the main topics of discussion. Johnson said Wang's been doing well with his work between starts and they want to get him straightened out. The skipper said he wouldn't decide about pulling him out of the rotation -- even though former No. 5 starter Detwiler threw well -- and was going to talk with Wang and pitching coach Steve McCatty to find a solution.
"I like his stuff; I like the hard work he's put in to get to where he's at," Johnson said of Wang. "I think there's a lot there. We need to figure it out. It's getting late -- and we will."
Jeff Seidel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.