PHILADELPHIA - For the second time in as many nights, the Nationals fell behind the Phillies early, battled back in the middle innings, allowed a big insurance run in the eighth and dropped a game to their division rivals.
This one was a 4-2 loss which saw Gio Gonzalez allow three runs over six innings. The key tally was a sixth-inning solo home run off the bat of John Mayberry which turned a 2-2 game into a one-run Phillies lead.
“Felt like a replay of last night,” manager Davey Johnson said. “Gio just had trouble getting the ball over early. He had great stuff and he was kind of dominant after the first inning. Made a mistake to the center fielder, knocked it nine miles, and then our bullpen had a little blip again where (we) couldn’t hold runners on. (You can’t) hit a guy. But the other guy pitched a good ballgame. What can you say?”
The bullpen blip was put up by Sean Burnett, who has been money for the vast majority of the season. Called on to work the eighth and keep the Nats just a run down, Burnett hit Chase Utley leading off the inning, then allowed Utley to steal second and third. The Phillies second baseman came in to score on a Mayberry sac fly, boosting the Phillies’ lead to two.
The normally mild-tempered Burnett was visibly upset with himself after the game. All six runners who have attempted to steal on Burnett this season have reached safely.
“Bernie, he’s the consummate pitcher,” Johnson said. “He’s beating himself up on it. I mean, the guy was running before he even made a move and he didn’t check him. That can’t happen. Those are mental mistakes, not physical mistakes. But offense is struggling a little bit. I guess I tip my hat to the pitchers.”
Roy Halladay held the Nats to just two runs over seven innings tonight. He threw a ridiculous number of strikes (only 19 of his 105 pitches were out of the zone), pounding his cutter and sharp curve in on Nats hitters.
Steve Lombardozzi got the lone run-scoring hit off Halladay - a two-run single in the fifth which tied the game.
“He throws that cutter in on the left-handers and he was using the split a little bit more than he normally does, and he always has good command,” Johnson said. “We had him in trouble and didn’t put him away. But he’s a good pitcher. He’s got out of those before.”
For nearly all of these last two games, the Nats have played without Michael Morse and Ian Desmond, two of their top and most consistent power hitters. In these two games, they’ve scored a combined four runs and have lacked many big scoring chances against Halladay and Kyle Kendrick.
“It’s not a lull, just got a little beat up with Desi down and Morse down,” Johnson said. “I give credit to the opposition pitching. They pitch good here. It’s not chopped liver over there. They’re very talented. Two runs doesn’t usually win it.”
The Nats won’t have either Desmond or Morse back tomorrow; Johnson said there’s no chance either guy plays in the series finale against the Phillies.
“No, neither one of them has come even close to taking BP.” Johnson said. “I kind of figured they’d be out ‘til Tuesday and that’s what they’ll be. They’ll be out ‘til Tuesday.”