PHILADELPHIA | Maybe it was a one-hour, 44-minute rain delay, and maybe it was the effect of facing four pitchers in six days with a combined 15 All-Star appearances between them. Or maybe it was just an offense that's been thinned by injuries showing signs of stress.
But the Nationals' offense looked listless on Sunday. That much is tough to refute.
They were shut out for the second time in three days, managing just five hits against Roy Oswalt, one of the few ace-level pitchers they've actually hit well in the past. Scott Olsen wasn't great against the Phillies' lineup, but he wasn't terrible, either. But it didn't matter, because the Nationals never gave him - or themselves - much of a chance.
"He pitched like he did four or five years ago," said first baseman Adam Dunn, who went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. "He's throwing his slider a lot more than I ever remember, and throwing changeups that I don't ever remember him throwing. I think he's just getting better."
The end result was a 6-0 loss to the Phillies, the second time they'd been shut out in the series, and a bus trip back to Washington with plenty of missed opportunities to chew on.
"We got some things going, ran the bases aggressively, got in scoring position," manager Jim Riggleman said. "But when Roy needed to get out of trouble, he found a way to get out of trouble."
The Nationals put the leadoff man on base in each of the first five innings. In each of the first three, they got the leadoff runner in scoring position. None of them scored, and after the fifth inning, they had only one hit against six strikeouts.
By the time heavy rains moved out of Philadelphia and the game resumed, things were mostly decided. The Phillies had already scored four of their six runs by that point, and the Raul Ibanez homer that seems to be a rite of every Nationals-Phillies series only put the game further out of reach.
The Nationals return home on Monday for a three-game series against the Cubs before the Cardinals come to town for four games. They'll get something of a reprieve against Chicago, facing three right-handers in Casey Coleman, Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster, and also face a struggling Cubs team in its first game under third-base coach Mike Quade after Lou Piniella's surprise retirement announcement.
After the run of starters they've faced, they can sure use it.