The Washington Nationals haven’t had many losing streaks this season. But three in a row constitutes a streak. Roy Halladay was in Cy Young form Saturday night as he led the Philadelphia Phillies to a series win over the Nats, taking their second straight by a score of 4-2, sending the Nats to their third consecutive loss and dropping the Nats lead in the N.L. East to 5 1/2 games over the Atlanta Braves in the process.
Both shortstop Ian Desmond (knee) and left fielder Michael Morse (hand) missed the game due to injuries. Neither are expected to play before the Nats series with the Marlins, which starts Tuesday night in Miami.
Halladay no-hit the Nats for three innings before allowing a single to Bryce Harper in the fourth. Unfortunately, Harper was immediately erased on a line-out double play off the bat of Ryan Zimmerman. Harper, who was running on the play, had no chance.
Halladay (W, 8-7, 3.88) mostly cruised through seven innings, allowing seven hits and one walk, striking out six. He gave up two earned runs, courtesy of a Steve Lombardozzi two-out, two-run single in the fifth that momentarily tied the game. But John Mayberry hit a solo home run in the sixth off Nats starter Gio Gonzalez and a sacrifice fly in the eighth off reliever Sean Burnett to give the Phillies the cushion they needed for victory.
Halladay was respectful of the Nats in his post-game comments. “They’re going to be good for a while. It’s important for us to play well against them, not only this year but going forward. They’re always going to be up there. Them and the Braves. It’s important for us to play well against them even in a season that hasn’t gone the way we wanted.”
“I don’t think any of us are just going to roll over and give them games. We kind of want to make a little bit of a statement at the same time. We still want to play. We still want to compete. And we’re not going to just give anything away.”
The Nats loss denied Gonzalez his first shot at his 17th win of the season. He didn’t pitch poorly (three earned runs on five hits and two walks in six innings with seven strikeouts), but with the Nats being shut down by Halladay and the Phils’ bullpen, Gonzalez would have had to have been extra-sharp, which he was not.
THE TAKEAWAY: The Nats lead is still at 5 1/2 games, so there’s no need to panic (yet), but the loss of Morse and Desmond from the middle of the lineup really hurts, both on the field and off. The morale of the team had to have taken a hit when Morse got drilled Friday night, knowing Desmond would already be missing the series. The two through five hitters for the Nats tonight went a combined 3-for-19, which obviously isn’t going to cut it. Zimmerman and LaRoche both struck out twice; Werth in the five-hole struck out thrice.
Chalk it up to a bad game. If they’re still lifeless on Sunday and lose with Zimmermann on the mound, you have permission to raise your concern.
THE GOOD: Danny Espinosa went 2-for-4 and scored a run.
THE BAD: Adam LaRoche went 0-for-4 with two Ks. He’s gone 8-for-39 (.205) in his last ten games and hasn’t homered since Aug. 4.
THE UGLY: In the eighth, Burnett hit Chase Utley, who proceeded to steal both second and third before scoring on Mayberry’s sac fly. The stolen base problem has reached the epidemic stage and something has to be done. Even if it’s the pitchers just stepping off when a runner gets his lead once in a while. You can’t give away extra bases, which is what they’re doing right now.
THE STATS: 7 hits, 1 BB, 11 Ks. 3-for-7 with RISP, 5 LOB, 0 GIDP. No errors, no DPs.
NEXT GAME: Sunday at 1:35 pm at Philly. Jordan Zimmermann (9-7, 2.54) faces Cliff Lee (2-7, 3.78).