Lost amidst the hoopla over Dontrelle Willis’ 20th win is the story behind John Halama’s brief stint. From the Washington Post’s Lee Carpenter :

A day after his strangest removal from a game — after five batters in the first inning Wednesday — Nationals pitcher John Halama still seemed confused as to what happened.

“Of course, I’m surprised,” he said. “I’ve never been taken out of a game [so early], losing 1-0. Down 5-0 is different.”

Manager Frank Robinson said he took Halama out of the game because he felt the pitcher was not aggressive enough on the mound, he looked as if he was nibbling at the corners of the plate and looked almost afraid to throw strikes. Of the 24 pitches he made before being removed, 13 were balls. But he also retired two of the five batters he faced.

“I didn’t think he was going after hitters,” Robinson said before last night’s game. “He was walking himself into trouble and he was one base hit from blowing the game open.”

Halama said he did not ask Robinson for an explanation as to why he was removed. When asked if he felt the need to explain himself to Robinson, perhaps in hopes of letting the manager understand the way he approaches his starts, he shook his head.

“I shouldn’t have to explain myself, it’s 1-0,” Halama said. “I don’t know why [Robinson] did it. It is what it is.”

He added that he felt awful about leaving the bullpen with 8 1/3 innings to fill. “I never want to do that to somebody, I never want to do that to a bullpen,” Halama said.

Robinson said he would not use Halama again as a starter when an open turn comes up on Sunday.