WASHINGTON — Phillies starter Jeremy Hellickson was staked to a four-run lead, but could not hold it in a 9-6 loss to the Washington Nationals on Friday night.
The loss dropped the Phillies to three games under .500 while Washington improved its record to 37-24.
Stephen Strasburg survived a couple of rocky innings to improve his lifetime record against the Phils to 8-2 in 17 starts.
Phillies hitters struck out 13 times, but Tommy Joseph continued to shine. He hit a pair of two-run homers.
Starting pitching report
Hellickson (4-4, 4.34) was tagged for nine hits, including three homers and a pair of two-run doubles, and a season-high seven runs over six innings.
The right-hander took a 4-0 lead to the mound in the bottom of the third. He gave up a pair of singles and a two-run double in the frame. An inning later, he gave up a pair of homers. He was tagged for another two-run double in the fifth as the Nationals went ahead by two runs.
Nationals starter Strasburg went seven innings and won his 10th straight decision. He recorded his 28th double-digit strikeout game. He is 10-0 with a 3.03 ERA.
Luis Garcia threw 29 pitches, 15 balls, in the seventh inning and allowed two runs.
Jonathan Papelbon closed it out for his 16th save.
At the plate
The Phillies took a 4-0 lead on Strasburg on RBI singles by Cody Asche and Tyler Goeddel (a squeeze that went for a hit) in the second and a two-run home run by Joseph in the third.
Joseph has hit safely in 14 of 16 starts. He has seven home runs in 65 at-bats. His second two-run homer of the night made it a three-run game in the eighth.
Jayson Werth and Daniel Murphy both had two-run doubles for the Nats. Murphy’s gave the Nats a 6-4 lead in the fifth. It came on an 0-2 pitch by Hellickson. The pitch was down and in where lefty hitters like it. Wilson Ramos, Stephen Drew and Danny Espinosa all hit homers against Hellickson. Murphy had another RBI double before the night was over.
In the field
There were several outstanding plays. The Phillies turned two tough double plays to get Hellickson out of trouble in the early innings. Washington leftfielder Werth made a nice diving catch to steal extra bases from Maikel Franco in the fifth.
Zach Eflin will join the club in time to pitch Tuesday in Toronto (see story). It will be the 22-year-old right-hander’s big-league debut. He is taking the place of Vince Velasquez, who was placed on the disabled list with a biceps strain. The injury is not serious, but the Phillies are exercising caution with Velasquez. Reliever Garcia was recalled from Triple A. The Phils will have to make a roster move to accommodate Eflin on Tuesday.
The series continues Saturday afternoon at noon with Aaron Nola (5-4, 2.65) opposing Washington right-hander Tanner Roark (4-4, 3.21).