The Nationals, who inched closer to dethroning the Phillies as National League East champions, bashed three home runs and built an insurmountable lead in the span of 22 Kyle Kendrick pitches. The Phillies face elimination as early as Friday.
These are what the final days of a lost season feel like.
Trivial goals remain: The Phillies must win Thursday to secure a winning record at home for the 11th straight season. A 4-3 finish to 2012 would guarantee a franchise-record 10th consecutive year above .500. Beyond that, it's wait until next year.
There was a time when starts like Wednesday's endangered Kendrick's rotation spot. Six weeks of good faith have prevented Kendrick from living game to game. That did not soften the blow; Kendrick's night lasted all of 47 pitches and six outs.
"He's been in a good streak," manager Charlie Manuel said. "He's pitched real well. He just had a tough night."
That helped little, as did an offense rendered limp against favorite punching bag John Lannan. The Phillies twice dinged Lannan - owner of a career 5.79 ERA against them - both times with reliever B.J. Rosenberg at the plate. The performance was lackluster, to say the least.
Only when the Washington bullpen opened did the Phillies make it a game. Jimmy Rollins snapped an 0-for-19 skid with a solo homer. Domonic Brown just missed a go-ahead blast that became a sacrifice fly. The tying run was stranded at third in the eighth inning when Kevin Frandsen struck out.
Kendrick dug the hole. It was his shortest start since April 14, 2010, also against Washington. He was the first Phillies starter to allow three or more homers in two or fewer innings since Adam Bernero in 2006.
Kendrick had posted a 2.17 ERA in his last eight starts. He is prone to the occasional slip. In 16 of his 24 starts, he has allowed two or fewer earned runs. In those other eight outings, he has a 10.40 ERA.
"We're all trying to be consistent," Kendrick said.
With an increased strikeout rate and better command, Kendrick was immune to those blowups. He had been a more reliable starter in 2012 than Roy Halladay. There remains room for improvement.
This one soured rapidly. To start, Werth walked on five pitches. Bryce Harper smoked the first pitch he saw, a well-placed change-up on the outside corner and below the knees. That blast was Harper's 20th of the season, making him only the second teenager to ever hit 20 or more. Tony Conigliaro in 1964 was the other.
Ian Desmond smacked a belt-high cutter to start the second inning, making it 3-0. Two batters later, after a Chase Utley error, Kurt Suzuki turned on an inside sinker for yet another bomb. Kendrick was serenaded with boos.
"The home runs they hit," Manuel said, "they hit 'em."
"Most of the night, I was behind in the count and up in the zone," Kendrick said. "That's what happens."
Wednesday was not his night, not when Manuel was applauded in the third inning for removing his starter.
"Washington is a good team," Manuel said. "They showed that."
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