Starting pitchers blow up. It happens to everybody once in a while. To Ricky Nolasco, it happens more than it should.

Nolasco, Tuesday's starter in Washington, is coming off the worst start of his career. He gave up nine earned runs on nine hits over 1 1/3 innings in a 14-3 loss to the Padres last week. A Marlins starter has allowed eight runs or more in a game 11 times since May 13, 2009. Nolasco has been the victim in seven of those.

Take away the start against the Padres and an eight-run, 15-hit outing at Dodger Stadium on May 29 and Nolasco's ERA would be 3.09, almost a full run lower than his actual mark (4.08).

"Everybody is going to have a couple of bad games here and there," Nolasco said. "I just want to eliminate the nine runs in 1 1/3 innings, but it happens. Those are the type of games that, like everybody says, you can just watch and tell no matter who's out there it's going to happen. That's the way the game goes. It just keeps falling on me.

"I have a ton of quality starts. That's all I can ask for."

Here's where manager Jack McKeon does the double take. McKeon demands more than quality starts. Before Sunday's game, he equated Nolasco to Josh Beckett and Brad Penny, two mega-talented pitchers who, when he arrived in 2003, he felt were not maximizing their stuff. McKeon pushed them relentlessly, saying they sometimes would go a week without talking to him.

"How bad do you want to be a 20-game winner?" McKeon said. "That's up to you. Do you want to work a little harder? Do you want to improve this area, improve that area? Or do you want to be comfortable and be a .550 pitcher? Do you want to be a .700 pitcher like [Roy] Halladay and those guys or do you want to be content winning 14 and losing 10? [Nolasco] is better than that.