Phillies miffed by another close loss to Nats

8 games in their season series vs. the Nats have been decided by 2 runs or less

Phillies miffed by another close loss to Nats

WASHINGTON -- Pete Mackanin is proud of the way his club has competed against the National League's best team, but he wants more than moral victories.

In Saturday night's 6-4 walk-off loss to the Nationals -- the fifth game in the season series to end in such fashion -- the Phillies once again found themselves in a tight affair against their National League East rival. And for the second time in less than a month, they fell victim to a Bryce Harper game-ending home run.

"We've been extremely competitive all year," Mackanin said afterward. "Hopefully in the near future I'm going to be able to say that we're winning those games and stepping up and getting that big hit when we need it late."

For the Phillies, that means finding a way to stay ahead, as they were for the first four innings on Saturday, breaking out for a 4-0 lead through 4 2/3 innings. The Nats climbed back in the game thanks to a four-run fifth inning off rookie starter Nick Pivetta, who was cruising through four scoreless innings. The 24-year-old right-hander's night ended after he allowed a two-run home run to Trea Turner, and a few batters later, a game-tying two-run double to Ryan Zimmerman. 

Zimmerman's two-run double

"That was a pretty big deal-breaker," Pivetta said. "It wasn't exactly how I wanted it to go."

But even after the game was tied, the Phillies had a few opportunities to get back out in front. In the seventh and ninth innings, the leadoff hitter reached base representing the go-ahead run, but was never driven home. That's one area Mackanin wants to see his team work on.

"We had some scoring opportunities, we just couldn't add on," Mackanin said. "That's what we have to do, especially with a team like this. We scratched and clawed for four runs ... [the Nats] get them in bunches.

"I felt pretty good about that, we just couldn't come up with the big hit."

Then, of course, came the one problem that the Phillies -- and most teams -- can't do much about: The Nats have Harper, and they do not.

"He's out to win the game, and he's got that kind of a bat," Mackanin said of the Nats' All-Star outfielder. "That's what it takes to win a lot of these games."

The loss dropped the Phillies to 4-6 on the season against Washington. However, it also continued the trend of close games between these clubs, as Saturday marked the eighth time in the season series that a game was decided by two runs or less.

Daniel Shiferaw is a contributor to MLB.com based in Washington. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.