Phillies 8, Nationals 0

All in all, a forgettable day at the ballpark for the Nats, who played like a team that both saw it’s opponent throw in the towel on the season early in the day and came out flat after a long road trip and an off day. It happens and when it does it’s nice to be 21 games over .500 at the time. Still, losing with Stephen Strasburg on the hill isn’t ideal – even if it was Philadelphia star lefty Cliff Lee on the mound opposite him.

Read all the details in our game story here. Lee was excellent once he escaped from a bases-loaded jam in the third inning. He pitched into the seventh inning and allowed just five hits with a walk and seven strikeouts. Philadelphia’s staff retired 19 of the final 20 Washington batters after Lee induced a ground out to third base by Tyler Moore to end that threat in the third.

“We never think about other guys. We worry about us and I think we have a good team, we have good players,” catcher Jesus Flores said. “Even though [Ryan] Zimmerman and [Adam] LaRoche wasn’t in there tonight. So it’s more like – I don’t know if just the day it was one of those nights where everybody I think they give too much credit to Cliff Lee tonight.

It does seem unlikely Strasburg cared that the Phillies had traded starting outfielder Hunter Pence (San Francisco) and Shane Victorino (Los Angeles Dodgers) earlier on Tuesday. But Philadelphia, double digits behind even the second National League wild-card team, has basically conceded the 2012 season and that does make for an odd day. Nothing worked from the start for Strasburg.

“It’s also looking at everybody dismantling their team. He’s not been through that,” Nats manager Davey Johnson said of Strasburg. “I’m not saying he looks at them ‘Two tough hitters out of their lineup, shoot, it’s going to be easier.’ No, he’s not that kind. But there’s all kind of emotions getting through this thing. [The Phillies] were actually probably feeling a little more looser because they got rid of a couple guys in their lineup. Kind of throwing in the towel. Just the emotions you go through in a long season.”

Give credit to reliever Tom Gorzelanny, who pitched three scoreless innings after Strasburg had to exit following the fourth inning – one of the worst outings of his 38-start career. Gorzelanny gave up just two hits – one an infield single – and saw Philadelphia slugger Ryan Howard reach base after a wild pitch despite striking out.

Johnson tried to finish the game with the mercurial Henry Rodriguez and he looked good in the eighth inning despite a walk and single. But in the ninth the first two runners reached base and were pushed to third on a ground out to the right side. Drew Storen came in to try and halt the late rally, but ended up allowing an RBI ground out and an RBI hit to help balloon his teammate’s ERA to 5.83.  

“Gorzelanny did a great job coming in and holding it for three innings,” Johnson said. “And we tried to stretch Henry a little bit to save the rest of the guys. But we’re fine.”

Washington, to be fair, was playing shorthanded, too. LaRoche and Zimmerman were both out with minor back injuries. At least the team hopes they’re minor. For now, Johnson says both players are expected back in the lineup on Wednesday night against the Phillies.

And that’s good because all of the sudden that National League East lead is down to 2 ½ games after the Atlanta Braves (59-44) won again – this time a 7-1 victory over the Miami Marlins. The Nats fell to 61-41.

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