Game in a nutshell: Needing to come up big to avoid only their fourth series sweep of the season, the Nationals instead dropped their fourth straight game, this one in unusual fashion. Jordan Zimmermann, who has cruised all afternoon, gave up three runs in the fifth on a double by pitcher Cliff Lee and a subsequent homer by Jimmy Rollins. Laynce Nix then homered off Tom Gorzelanny in the sixth. The Nationals tried to mount a rally, but Adam LaRoche's apparent two-run homer in the seventh was correctly ruled a double, leading to a bizarre play in which LaRoche was tagged out. The lineup then went silent against the Phillies bullpen, resulting in a stunning series sweep at Citizens Bank Park. The Nationals' lead in the NL East (which stood at 7 on Wednesday) is now down to 5 with the Braves still playing tonight in San Francisco.
Hitting lowlight: Stifled all afternoon by Lee, the Nationals finally appeared to deliver a big blow against the veteran left-hander when LaRoche launched what appeared to be a two-run homer to right in the top of the seventh. Except the ball struck the top of the railing above the fence and bounced back into right field. First-base umpire Gerry Davis immediately signaled the ball in play, but neither LaRoche nor Jayson Werth (who started on second base) noticed. So both runners coasted, assuming a home run. LaRoche wound up getting tagged out, with Werth stuck on third, and that's how they remained after the umpires reviewed video of the play. They did manage to score one run when Tyler Moore doubled, but that gaffe cost them at least one run and possibly more. It was a bad moment for two veterans who should have known better.
Pitching lowlight: Zimmermann looked absolutely fantastic for four innings, carving up the Phillies lineup with ease. Then he gave up an RBI double to Lee in the fifth and melted down. Rollins followed with a two-run homer to right, putting the Nationals in a 3-0 hole and spoiling what could have been a solid outing by Zimmermann. Remember when he could be counted on to go six innings every single time out? (He did that in his first 21 starts of the season.) Well, Zimmermann now has failed to complete six innings in four of his last five starts. Is his shoulder barking? His velocity remains high, but only Jordan knows the answer.
Key stat: LaRoche and Ryan Zimmerman have combined to hit one home run over the Nationals' last 20 games.
Up next: The Nationals were originally supposed to fly to Miami following today's game, but with Hurricane Isaac closing airports in South Florida, they decided to spend another night in Philadelphia and travel on their off-day. Assuming the storm passes through, their series with the Marlins will open at 7:10 p.m. Tuesday, with Stephen Strasburg facing Ricky Nolasco.