WASHINGTON -- Charlie Manuel loaded his lineup with as many right-handed bats as possible on Thursday night. The Phillies, facing left-hander Ross Detwiler and with ace Cole Hamels on the mound, entered the night with a solid chance to sweep the first-place Nationals.
They'll have to settle for two out of three and a series win.
Unable to string consecutive hits together against Detwiler, Philadelphia faltered offensively in a 3-0 loss to Washington. The Phillies (47-58) managed only three base knocks over a seven-inning performance from Detwiler, who retired the final 14 batters he faced.
"We didn't square nothing up," manager Charlie Manuel said. "[Detwiler] was good against us. We were hitting some weak ground balls. We only hit two popups in the air to the outfield. We didn't ever hit one real good."
The offensive struggles wasted a good outing from Hamels (11-6), who struck out nine over seven innings and allowed only the three runs on eight hits. It was a good bounce-back performance for the All-Star left-hander, who struggled Friday against the Braves. Manuel said Hamels' performance "kind of got overlooked by the fact that he left losing, 3-0."
"We just have to stay with it and keep fighting no matter where we are in the standings, what the score is," Hamels said. "Because every game matters, and obviously matters for the rest of your career. You don't get back this day. This day's obviously over and I'll never get one of these days ever again, so you have to move on. But you want to at least leave it where you did everything you could, and you were on top of everything."
Washington first baseman Adam LaRoche tagged Hamels for two RBIs on three hits, including a second-inning solo blast that landed in the second deck in right field at Nationals Park.
In the third inning, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins made mistakes on back-to-back ground balls to put runners on first and second with one out. LaRoche knocked in a run with a single to center, and the Nats scored another on a groundout by former Phillie Jayson Werth to make it 3-0.
"We can make those plays," Manuel said. "Usually, they catch those balls."
Washington threatened to put up a crooked number in the sixth, when a double from catcher Sandy Leon put runners on second and third with just one out. Second baseman Steve Lombardozzi lined out to right fielder John Mayberry Jr., and LaRoche tagged up from third. But Mayberry, playing right field for just the second time this season, threw a dart to Carlos Ruiz at home plate to nab LaRoche and end the inning.
That could have served as a momentum shift for the Phillies. But ultimately, they never got in a groove at the plate. Even after Detwiler (6-4) exited, the Nats' bullpen held them at bay over the final two innings.
Utley and newcomer Nate Schierholtz worked walks off Tyler Clippard in the ninth, and with two outs, Manuel pinch-hit Ryan Howard for left fielder Domonic Brown. Howard was kept out of the lineup as he is in a self-proclaimed "funk," with just one hit and nine strikeouts in his last 14 at-bats entering the game.
After falling behind Clippard 0-2, Howard looked at an inside fastball for a called third strike, ending the ballgame.
"I felt like that was our best option," Manuel said of pinch-hitting Howard. "I felt like he was more apt to catch one, although Brown's got power, he's young and he's got power. [Brown will] be in there tomorrow night. He's going to play. But when we get there, and we've got a chance to tie the game up, you know, Howard is the guy that hits them for us."
Though the Phillies were unable to complete the sweep, winning two of three against the Nats is still the mark of a successful series. Now, they return to Philadelphia for a nine-game homestand. Friday night's game against the D-Backs will be the first time the fan base, which has sold out Citizens Bank Park in 254 straight regular-season games, will see the new-look lineup without Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence.
"I really hope that the fans keep coming to the ballgame," Hamels said. "The sellout record's obviously something that you want to keep intact, especially when you're not doing well, because you know next year we're gonna keep fighting on out. If you can kind of stick with it for about two months or how many home games we have ... just try to be positive, because hopefully we can continue something. And when you look down the road 30 to 40 years from now you can say 'Hey, we had 400 or 500 or 600 consecutive sellout days,' and that's something to say about the fans and the city."
Jake Kaplan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.