MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Nats can't find a way to solve Burnett, Phillies

Roark fans eight in solid outing, but Washington drops season series

Nats can't find a way to solve Burnett, Phillies

WASHINGTON -- The Phillies have the Nationals' number -- or so it seems -- as they posted their fifth straight win over Washington, 3-1, on Saturday afternoon at Nationals Park.

The Nationals are six games ahead of the Braves in the National League East race, following Atlanta's 4-3 win in 10 innings over the Marlins.

Phillies right-hander A.J. Burnett picked up where he left off on Aug. 25 against Washington. In that game at Citizens Bank Park, Burnett pitched seven innings, while allowing one run on three hits in a one-run victory. Twelve days later, Burnett was dealing again. This time, he pitched seven innings again, allowing one run on six hits and striking out four.

"He just goes out there and pitches well," Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper said. "He locates, he mixes it up a lot. I got some pitches today I thought I could hit, but missed."

Phillies manager Ryan Sandberg was impressed by what he saw from his starter.

"I think that's the best movement he's had on the ball this year," Sandberg said. "Maybe the best curveball he's had. It was real tight. It was in there for strikes. ... One of his better outings."

The Nationals scored their only run in the fifth inning when Anthony Rendon hit a sacrifice fly to score Asdrubal Cabrera.

"He is a good matchup against our guys," Nationals manager Matt Williams said. "The middle of our order guys have done some damage against him, but not a lot of base hits. He matches up pretty well with our team over time.

"He seems to throw strikes against us. His walk totals is certainly lower against our team than the other teams he faces."

Right-hander Tanner Roark (12-10) started for Washington and lasted six innings, allowing three runs on nine hits. It was the third inning when the Phillies took the lead off Roark.

The rally started with a single by Burnett. Two-out singles by Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley loaded the bases for Ryan Howard, who delivered a two-run single.

"It's been a tough year for us collectively," Howard said. "Trying to come together to finish strong, [trying] to build going into next year possibly."

Three innings later, Domonic Brown made it a two-run game again when he homered over the right-field wall on a 3-0 pitch. It was Brown's ninth homer.

"Other than that, [Roark] was pretty good," Williams said. "He is to a point where his innings have really gotten up there. In that situation, we have lefties lined up in the bullpen against a left-handed-heavy lineup. So we decided to get Tanner out of there at that point and let the bullpen take it over, which they did."

Roark acknowledged that he made mistakes in the game.

"My ball was up and it really wasn't locating the way I would want it to be," he said. " ... I thought it was a good curveball to Howard. It was out over the plate a little bit. I have to get more inside. [On Brown], the outcome was unfortunate, but it happens."

Since Aug. 12, the Nationals are 16-7, while five of their losses have come against the Phillies. It doesn't help that the Phillies have a lethal bullpen, led by Jonathan Papelbon and Ken Giles. Lately, it seems the Philly starters can go six innings and then it's lights out with the bullpen.

"It's has been the case of them pitching well against us, Burnett, especially. So it doesn't get easy tomorrow with Cole [Hamels]. We have to see what we can do with him," Williams said.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.