PHILADELPHIA - Davey Johnson can't really explain why the Nationals look so locked-in offensively one day and then produce so little the next.
Neither can Adam LaRoche, who admits it's a bit frustrating the way the Nats have been so feast-or-famine offensively of late.
"A little bit," LaRoche said. "We'll get into a game and we'll be in the sixth, seventh inning with two or three hits. Where the night before we had 15 hits. I can't explain it. It's one of those things you try to go out and get 15 hits before you get the first one. And nothing good happens."
Tonight, the Nats notched seven hits, one fewer than the Phillies, but they had just two hits and a single run through the first six innings, again forcing them to try and play catch-up when the Phillies took the lead in the middle frames.
Not happy with his at-bat in the first inning, when he got jammed and grounded into a 4-6-3 double play, Ian Desmond opted to trot into the clubhouse and shave his face clean mid-game.
"The goatee was weighing me down," Desmond said.
The ploy might have worked, as Desmond singled in the eighth to help get a rally going. After a Bryce Harper walk, Ryan Zimmerman stood in with the bases loaded and one out. Cole Hamels' pitch-count was already at 100, and a good portion of the crowd came to its feet in what turned into a pretty dramatic moment.
Zimmerman took a first-pitch fastball that was called a strike. The Nats' third baseman briefly protested the call, and then two pitches later, he swung through a high fastball for strike three. Werth then flew out to center, leaving the bases loaded.
"The first pitch to me was borderline, I guess," Zimmerman said. "But I had a good pitch to hit the second pitch and obviously chased a fastball up the third pitch. But Cole threw the ball well tonight. The last two times we've faced him, he's had good stuff. It's tough when you get behind 0-1. I mean, 1-0 versus 0-1 is a huge difference in that situation."
Jimmy Rollins went just 1-for-4 today, but he made one of the more underrated plays of the game when he moved into LaRoche's throw to second in the sixth inning. LaRoche was attempting to cut down the trailing runner and leave the double play in order with runners at the corners with one out, but his throw ricocheted off Rollins, allowing a run to score and preventing the Nats from recording an out on the play.
"You've got to tip your cap right there," Desmond. "That's unbelievable baserunning. That's really good wherewithal. There's probably things that we could do differently, but at the same time, he did a very good job baserunning. That's something that you don't see from very many other players in the big leagues.
"It's unbelievable instincts. He know that Rochie stayed back on the ball, and I guess he might've seen me going out towards the ball. He kinda broke towards me. All you can do right there is just tip your cap."
LaRoche was asked if he'd try to make that same play again in that situation.
"I'd try for that with no outs," he said. "I want to get him. If I threw it two feet to the right, he's probably clear enough to make a play. And I know we got first and third with one out and a chance for a double play and we get out of the inning. Yeah, the throw was a little off."
It was a little off, and when the Nats aren't scoring runs, they can't afford to be a little off. The pitching has to be excellent and the defense has to be crisp. Neither was necessarily the case tonight.