PHILADELPHIA - Tyler Clippard might have given up two run-scoring hits in the eighth inning that turned a 2-1 Nationals lead into a 3-2 Phillies advantage, but it wasn't either of those base knocks that he was really kicking himself over after the game.
It was the two-out walk to the light-hitting Cesar Hernandez that got it all started.
Hernandez came into the at-bat hitting .226 on the season with just one extra-base hit in 31 at-bats. But after getting ahead in the count 1-2, Clippard missed the zone with three straight fastballs, giving Hernandez a free pass.
"That was the biggest mistake I made in the inning was that walk and not going after him," Clippard said. "I felt like I made a good pitch 3-2, it was obviously down, but I didn't challenge him like I should've. I got ahead of him, didn't put him away, and that was the difference."
One batter after the walk to Hernandez, Jimmy Rollins doubled to right-center, tying the game. Two batters after that, Carlos Ruiz singled to left, and Rollins came in just ahead of Bryce Harper's throw to the plate, giving the Phillies the lead.
"I mean, just frustration, you know?" Clippard said. "He made a good slide there. Bryce definitely had a chance to get him out, made a good throw. (Wilson) Ramos stepped maybe one step to his left and Rollins adjusted his slide accordingly and was safe. Yeah, that was frustrating."
Harper charged Ruiz's single and let loose a throw that was just a little bit up the third base line.
"Jimmy can run a little bit," Harper said. "He can still run. I thought I had a good opportunity to throw him out but it didn't happen, so he scored."
Clippard's arguably been the Nats' best pitcher this season, but he faltered tonight. Add in the fact that every game means so much for the Nats as they now sit 7 1/2 games back of the Reds for the final wild card spot in the National League, and that makes it even tougher for Clippard to handle.
"We know we've got to win these games and Stras pitched a heck of a game," Clippard said. "It was kind of a pitching duel all night long and it was a battle of the bullpens and we feel like we should win those matchups. All that compounded makes that tough."
Stephen Strasburg struck out 10 Phillies for the second time in as many stats against the division rivals, but despite allowing just an unearned run in his six innings of work, Strasburg got a no-decision. Despite the stat line, it wasn't the smoothest of starts for Strasburg, who tired late in his outing and had trouble getting a grip on the ball when throwing fastballs and changeups because of the conditions.
"With the way the game was going, I didn't have many quick innings or anything," Strasburg said. "So I definitely was feeling it there at the end. You got from two innings last start and you're really antsy and not really locating your fastball as well. I think that's what led to it especially really early on."
Strasburg has talked in the past about how a short outing can affect him his next time out, as he feels more worn down when his starts aren't a consistent length. That was the case tonight, as he felt his two-inning outing his last time out negatively affected his endurance tonight.
"Yeah, absolutely," he said. "You know what your body is going to feel like in between. Maybe I was overtraining a little bit to try and offset the two innings that I had. But it's just a part of it. Obviously, strange circumstances. It's not always going to be like this. Anytime I get more consistent with being able to go deep in the ballgame I definitely feel much stronger later on."