"I just didn't command like I needed to," Hellickson said after the game.
The Phillies played their first 10 games against the Reds, Mets and Padres, but they saw their best lineup in the 11th game of the season against the Nationals. Washington ranked 10th in baseball last season with 703 runs scored. Its lineup has a 2-3-4 of Anthony Rendon, Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman.
"It's an aggressive lineup," Hellickson said after the game. "It's a good lineup. But I just wasn't good today. That's what it comes down to."
Phillies manager Pete Mackanin agreed.
"I think it boils down to that our starting pitcher wasn't at his best," he said. "If you make good pitches, you're going to get Nationals out."
Hellickson's poor outing ended what had been a string of strong starts. Phillies starters had thrown 22 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings entering Friday night. That streak didn't get any longer.
After his seven shutout innings on Wednesday, Jerad Eickhoff said the rotation was feeding off one another. Catcher Cameron Rupp told Charlie Morton it was like each was trying to top the last.
The Phillies, who aren't expected to contend in 2016, led the league in ERA (2.14) entering Friday night's action, offering fans a potential glimpse into the future -- the light at the end of the tunnel of the rebuild.
On Wednesday, Mackanin said he doesn't see why the Phillies won't continue their starting pitching success. It's possible the rotation could still be near the top of the league by the end of the month, but they will need to make better pitches than Hellickson made Friday night.
Evan Webeck is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.