Bryce Harper got thrown out at home for the third out of the first. Jordan Zimmermann reached first on a wild pitch strike three in the third, but was doubled up when Denard Span bunted one off the plate and neglected to run it out, apparently thinking it was foul. A two-out error put runners on first and third in the fourth, but Anthony Rendon lined out to right to end the inning. Zimmermann bunted too softly with Kurt Suzuki on second and the Nats' catcher got thrown out at third after reaching on an error to start the fifth. Span grounded into another double play in the next at bat and Washington was held off the board through five by Philadelphia's starter, Kyle Kendrick.
Bryce Harper tripled and scored in the sixth to tie it the game at 1-1, but a leadoff double, sac bunt and RBI double in the bottom of the seventh gave the Phillies a 2-1 lead in a game that ended up 3-1 in their favor. The Nationals dropped three of four on the road in Citizens Bank Park with the loss and left the City of Brotherly Love 6.0 games back in the NL East and 4.0 games back in the Wild Card standings.
"They made a bunch of errors and we couldn't capitalize," Davey Johnson told reporters after game, "You know, Kendrick, he was a lot different from the other guys. He was a lot of offspeed stuff, sliders and whatever, we just -- I love my team -- we just sometime haven't been able to put consistent offensive efforts forth."
Washington lost 3-2, 4-2, and 3-1 in the first, second and fourth games of the series in Philadelphia after scoring 32 runs over the four-game win streak that ended the final home stand of the first-half of the 2013 campaign. The Nationals have three more games with Miami before the All-Star Break. The Marlins have lost five of their last six games. Nats' skipper Davey Johnson is still confident the defending NL East Champions are coming around.
"I love this team," the 70-year-old manager said after the loss dropped their record to 47-45. "It's a long way to go. A lot of guys are getting where they need to be. This was just a tough ballgame. All these games here were tough. Just a little break here and there and we could have won three out of four. But I like the way guys are grinding and we're going to be fine."
Johnson said tonight he didn't think the Nationals' offensive issues had anything to do with facing a right-hander after three tough lefties in John Lannan, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee in the first three games of the series. "I believe in zone hitting," he said, "You look for pitches that you can handle. But five hits in nine innings? That's not too good, we're much more capable than that. Be good to get to Florida. Maybe get some hot weather and a little rain, mix in some good hits."
One question the manager was sure to get was about his decision to lift Jordan Zimmermann in the seventh after the Nats' starter had given up a leadoff double by Darin Ruf on hanging first-pitch curve and a one-out RBI double by Kevin Frandsen on an 0-2 slider outside the Phillies' pinch hitter punched to right-center field. Denard Span charged Frandsen's low liner but failed to make a running backhand catch, so the runner scored from third to make it 2-1 Phillies. Zimmermann was at just 79 pitches at that point, and hadn't been hit particularly hard. So was he tired? Was it another issue with the neck stiffness that's cropped up occasionally?
"I know that it's still a lingering problem with Jordan," Davey Johnson said, "Normally I wouldn't probably go get him in that situation, but I just felt like he pitched a great ballgame. Kept us in there. I didn't want to aggravate anything or whatever. But he's been very consistent, with injury and everything else, going out there and giving us a bunch of innings." Zimmermann's night ended after 6.1 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 6 Ks, 79 P, 59 S, 9/3 GO/FO.
Johnson didn't seem too concerned about Zimmermann's neck, and noted that, "... he's awfully good even when he's not 100%. He's got outstanding stuff." The Nats' manager also said he thought it was just a bad break on a play his center fielder normally makes that ended Zimmermann's night. "You've got to tip your hat to the hitter. 9 times out of 10 Span catches that ball and we get out of the inning, so. Tough game, we'll get them in Florida."
"It was a little tight," Jordan Zimmermann told reporters after the game, when asked about the lingering neck issue. "But I've been dealing with that for a while now. But I got it loosened up and it was good enough to go out there and pitch."
Asked if the neck problem was something that might keep him from pitching in his first All-Star Game next week in New York, Zimmermann said, "It's a possibility. I'm not really sure yet what I'm going to do, but we'll see how the next few days go and go from there."
"I'd rather be healthy for the second half than pitch in that," the right-hander explained, " I'd like to pitch in it, but I'm not going to go out there and just pitch an inning and have to battle the whole second half." Zimmermann's first half ends the with the 27-year-old right-hander (12-4) with a 2.58 ERA, a 3.09 FIP, 10 HRs (0.68 HR/9), 18 walks (1.22 BB/9) and 95 Ks (6.46 K/9) in 19 starts and 132 1/3 IP.