"The noose is getting tight, but we're still there," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said after a loss to the Braves on Sunday. "We haven't stopped breathing yet."
After dropping two of three to the Wild Card-leading Braves, Philadelphia opens a three-game set against the Nationals on Tuesday at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies will turn to Cole Hamels, who will be seeking his career-best 16th win.
The lefty is 15-6 with a 3.02 ERA, and he hasn't dropped a decision since Aug. 2, the last time he faced the Nats. Since that outing, Hamels is 4-0 with a 2.50 ERA and 55 strikeouts in eight starts.
After wrapping up a four-game series by blowing out the Brewers on Monday, the Nats will start lefty Ross Detwiler in the series opener in Philadelphia as they try to take another step closer to clinching the NL East title. Washington leads Atlanta by five games and has a magic number of five for the division crown.
Detwiler, 10-6 on the year, is 3-0 with a 2.43 ERA over his last five starts. He tossed seven shutout innings against the Phillies for his sixth win of the year on Aug. 2 in D.C., his only start vs. Philadelphia this season.
Nationals: Morse gets day to rest
Left fielder Michael Morse wasn't in the lineup for Monday afternoon's game against the Brewers, as he deals with injuries to his left wrist and right thumb. Morse had started the previous six contests after missing the four before that.
In 27 games since Aug. 18, Morse is hitting .257 with a .649 OPS, two home runs, no doubles and eight RBIs.
"My biggest concern is always health," Johnson said. "Michael is a big offensive cog and an offensive weapon. He has been fighting some nagging injuries. We need to get him going."
Phillies: Rotation tweaked for home stretch
In preparation for the final stretch of the season, the Phillies shuffled their starting rotation, with Kyle Kendrick assuming Wednesday's start for Tyler Cloyd.
Wednesday's start will be on regular rest for Kendrick, who pitched Friday. Thursday's starter remains to be determined, but it could be Cloyd or Roy Halladay, who pitched Saturday.
Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz is three hits shy of tying his career high of 116.
The Phillies have taken seven of 12 against the Nats this year, including three in a row.
Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond stole his 20th base on Monday to clinch his first 20/20 season. He also has 24 home runs.