Aaron Nola received little support from the Phillies offense and was hurt by the team's defense in the biggest start of his career Tuesday afternoon.
But Nola was not sharp either in a damaging 5-1 loss to the Washington Nationals in the first game of a doubleheader in D.C.
Nola went six innings and allowed six hits and two walks. He gave up five runs but two were unearned as Mickey Moniak and Bryce Harper both made costly errors in the outfield.
Washington tagged Nola for three doubles and a single in scoring four times in the third inning. Defense hurt Nola in that inning as Harper misplayed a ball in right field that Brock Holt stroked past first baseman Jay Bruce.
The Phillies' offense generated just three hits and struck out seven times against Washington right-hander Austin Voth. Voth went all seven innings for the win. He had entered the game 0-5 with a 7.17 ERA and had been allowing 10.8 hits and 4.1 walks per nine innings.
The loss dropped the Phillies under .500 (27-28) with just five games remaining. The Phils had entered the day clinging to the eighth and final NL playoff spot.
The Phillies are 0-4 in their last four games started by Nola and Zack Wheeler, their two best pitchers.
Nola, who went 0-3 with a 6.51 ERA in five starts last September, lost his previous start to the Mets. He gave up five hits, five walks and five runs in 5⅓ innings. The Phils blew a 6-3 lead in that game and lost, 10-6.
The Phillies have lost three in a row and the offense has generated just five runs in those games.
The Phils also lost Monday night's series opener, 5-1, to the Nationals. The Phils made three errors in that game and had just six hits.
So they're not exactly coming up clutch in this crucial series.
The Phillies will use the majors' worst bullpen to try to salvage a win in Game 2 of the doubleheader.
Zach Eflin will start the series finale against Washington on Wednesday night. The Phillies are off Thursday before opening their final series of the season Friday night at Tampa Bay. Vince Velasquez, Wheeler and Nola are the scheduled starters in that series. The first round of the playoffs begins in eight days. The Phils have five games left to get there and they're not moving in the right direction.