Game in a nutshell: Stephen Strasburg on the mound. A depleted and demoralized Phillies club waving the white flag on the season. Might as well just pencil that curly W in the book before this one even gets star... er, maybe not. Strasburg was roughed up by those pesky Phillies, giving up six earned runs to match his career high while lasting only four innings. Cliff Lee, meanwhile, had his way with a Nationals lineup that was missing Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche (each sidelined with back spasms). The end result wasn't pretty: The Nats slogged their way through one of their ugliest ballgames in quite a while, and in the process saw their lead over Philadelphia dwindle to 15 12 games. What? Oh, OK. Maybe this wasn't the worst thing ever.
Hitting lowlight: It's probably unfair to blame the guys who were forced into the lineup to replace the injured Zimmerman and LaRoche, but Mark DeRosa and Tyler Moore didn't exactly put forth big-time performances as fill-ins. DeRosa, playing third base in Zimmerman's stead, struck out in all four of his plate appearances, lowering his season batting average to .148. Moore also was 0-for-4, grounding into a killer out with the bases loaded in the third when the game was still within reach. Not that we didn't know this already, but Zimmerman and LaRoche are just a tad important to the Nationals' lineup.
Pitching lowlight: Strasburg didn't look right from the very beginning, allowing a pair of first-inning singles, and things only got worse as his night progressed. He served up a two-run bomb to Kevin Frandsen (whose last big-league homer came in 2007) in the second, essentially let Juan Pierre steal three bases in the third and then really fell apart in the fourth by allowing three more runs. Strasburg was probably squeezed some by plate umpire Tim McClelland, but he also had no command of his changeup, bouncing several of them in front of the plate in a rare display of wildness. Pitchers returning from Tommy John surgery always talk about the ups and downs they experience during their first full season back. This was as down as it's been for Strasburg all year.
Key stat: Strasburg has failed to reach the fourth inning in only two of his 38 career starts, and each of those early hooks was health-related. He went three innings on Sept. 11, 2011 against the Astros in only his second start back from Tommy John surgery. And he was pulled after the third inning in Atlanta on June 30 after suffering from heat exhaustion.
Up next: The series continues Wednesday when Edwin Jackson faces Vance Worley. First pitch at Nationals Park is at 7:05 p.m.