Phillies fall flat to Nats, 8-5

The Nationals' Jayson Werth acknowledges cheering hometown fans after his two-run homer in the seventh gave Washington a 6-4 lead. ALEX BRANDON / Associated Press
The Nationals' Jayson Werth acknowledges cheering hometown fans after his two-run homer in the seventh gave Washington a 6-4 lead. ALEX BRANDON / Associated Press
Posted: August 12, 2013

WASHINGTON - The home fans, clinging to faint hope in the nation's capital, demanded a curtain call for what will probably amount to a meaningless moment in a most disappointing season. Jayson Werth's teammates threw sunflower seeds and pieces of gum at their $126 million outfielder. He relented.

Charlie Manuel did not move Saturday night as Werth celebrated. There is no joy. The Phillies manager rested his chin on his crossed arms as an 8-5 loss to the Nationals developed in a gory seventh inning. There was no one to warm in the bullpen behind Zach Miner, a 31-year-old journeyman summoned to the majors for the first time in four years.

"It kind of gets me in a screaming mood," Manuel said. "I try to keep my cool. When you start finding different ways to lose every night, it's tough."

But this, the latest episode of a 162-game nightmare, was no different from most. Miner threw 19 pitches of napalm. The first one, a slider, was crushed by Werth for a go-ahead home run.

"He's paid to do that," Miner said.

Ian Desmond doubled. Adam LaRoche was intentionally walked. Wilson Ramos singled. Anthony Rendon singled. Washington scored five times.

The Phillies must play 46 more games. They have lost 16 of their last 19. Their 10-game road losing streak is the franchise's longest since 1999. This is a team on pace for 73 wins. The Phillies have not reached those depths since 2000, when they bumbled to a 65-97 mark in Terry Francona's final season.

Manuel's players have not quit on him. They are simply overmatched. The roster is being paid $170 million and it is inept.

"It is what it is," Cliff Lee said. "We have to keep grinding and battle to the end."

It is shocking, then, that the Phillies and Nationals are separated by a mere three games. That should serve as a commentary on Manuel's successful reign. Say what you will about the current state of the Phillies, but at least they did not waste a season of their roster's prime years like Washington has in 2013.

When the bullpen door opens, Manuel is forced to play roulette. Six of his seven current relievers have spent time in triple-A Lehigh Valley. Lee pitched six innings, which meant the bullpen had nine outs to protect a one-run lead. The game was tied four batters into the seventh.

Jake Diekman, a lefty who cannot retire righties, walked two righthanded hitters. Next was Miner, who had been used as a long reliever before Saturday. The results were disastrous.

The Phillies have the worst bullpen ERA (4.42) in the National League. They have inexperienced pitchers thrust into important situations. Manuel senses fear in some of his relievers.

"That's a confidence thing," Manuel said. "You see it. I see it."

There were but two positives. Darin Ruf destroyed a first-pitch 93 m.p.h. fastball in the second inning for his sixth homer in 28 games. The most encouraging development of Ruf's hitting is his production against righthanded pitching. Before that blast off Taylor Jordan, he batted .329 with a .984 OPS vs. righties. Ruf has long succeeded against lefties. His improved bat could force the Phillies to find a position for him.

Later, in the eighth, Domonic Brown blasted his 26th homer to right. That was meaningless because of the carnage before it. The Phillies do not just lose; they fail in a most spectacular manner.


Contact Matt Gelb

at mgelb@phillynews.com.

Follow on Twitter @magelb.

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