Nationals go silent after grabbing early lead

Nationals go silent after grabbing early lead

Nationals go silent after grabbing early lead
WASHINGTON -- Spotted a two-run lead in the first inning, Edwin Jackson was well positioned for Wednesday night's start. But when a trio of mistake pitches in the third and fifth innings led to three solo home runs for the Phillies while the Nationals' bats fell silent, Washington dropped its second straight game in a 3-2 loss at Nationals Park.

Jackson threw 5 2/3 innings of three-run, eight-hit ball, though his pitch count elevated quickly. For the third consecutive start, the right-hander eclipsed the 100-pitch mark, throwing 108 as he fell to 6-7. Jimmy Rollins launched two home runs to right field in the third and fifth inning -- narrowly missing another homer in his first at-bat -- while Nate Schierholtz followed the latter solo shot with one on the next pitch.

Fortunately for the Nationals, the Braves saw their seven-game winning streak snapped in a loss, 4-2, to the Marlins, keeping Washington's National League East lead at 2 1/2 games.

"Rollins, I knew his pitches were just over the middle," Jackson said. "Schierholtz just came out probably looking for a first-pitch fastball that was middle-in and he jumped on it."

The Nats pounced in the first inning when Bryce Harper knocked a one-out single to center, advanced to second on Chad Tracy's walk and took third when Phillies third baseman Kevin Frandsen booted a sharp grounder from Michael Morse.

Up came Adam LaRoche, who laced a single up the middle to score Harper. The rally continued when Danny Espinosa hit a double-play ball right at Chase Utley, who booted it and could only record one out at second.

But after that first inning, the Nationals managed only five hits the rest of the way as Phillies right-hander Vance Worley was sharp over seven innings. Worley allowed only the two unearned runs on six hits, while walking one batter and striking out none.

"It seemed like everything I threw, it really wasn't going where I wanted it to," Worley said of the first inning. "It wasn't coming out hard, either. I was slower with my velocity in the first inning, first two innings. Then after that, I kind of figured it out."

Jackson played a part in enlivening the Nats' offense, knocking a single up the middle in the second and advancing to second on Steve Lombardozzi's grounder to third. Harper followed with a single to left, prompting third-base coach Bo Porter to send Jackson toward home. But with Erik Kratz expertly blocking the plate, Jackson was tagged out when Domonic Brown fired a perfect throw home.

Jackson also found his trouble shortly after his baserunning adventures, though neither he nor manager Davey Johnson expressed any regret over his aggressiveness.

"He's such a good baserunner, and Bo knows what I feel -- if there's ever any doubt, send him home," Johnson said. "I hadn't ever seen [Brown] throw, and I don't think Bo's ever seen him throw, either. He made a heck of a throw."

After Jackson was nabbed at home, the Nats didn't advance a runner to second base until the eighth inning. Ryan Zimmerman, taking one final day off to rest his sore back, pinch-hit for Tracy and ripped a one-out single. But with LaRoche at the plate, Zimmerman was thrown out attempting to steal second, again on another terrific throw by Kratz.

"He made a perfect throw and threw me out," Zimmerman said. "If it's high or off the mark at all, I'm safe and now we have a guy on second with [LaRoche] facing a lefty instead of a guy on first. It was one of those calculated risks where if I make it, it helps us. Obviously, you don't want to get out -- I wasn't trying to get out -- but if we get out, he's leading off against a righty and has a lot better chance to do some damage."

Jonathan Papelbon entered in the ninth inning for the Phillies and set all three batters he faced down in order.

The Nationals' bullpen also put forth strong efforts that were spoiled by the weak offensive showing. Mike Gonzalez pitched a perfect 1 1/3 innings while Ryan Mattheus rebounded from his three-home run outing Sunday in Milwaukee with a 1-2-3 eighth inning. Sean Burnett came on for the ninth and allowed only a leadoff single to pinch-hitter Ty Wigginton.

Mike Fiammetta is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.