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08/15/07 11:59 PM ET

No late magic for the Phils this time

Rally falls short; club four games back in NL East

WASHINGTON -- Russell Branyan proved to be an anomaly. When the Phillies score fewer than three runs, they typically don't win.

A day after Branyan gave Philadelphia a thrilling win, the Phillies ran into another shutdown pitching performance, and lost 4-2 to Washington at RFK Stadium, falling to 2-30 when unable to muster a three-spot.

With the Mets and Braves each winning, the Phillies will wake up on Thursday four games back in the National League East, and in third place.

"We've had good pitching thrown against us," Manuel said. "At the same time, we haven't hit the ball over the past two games. We've never really played good here and we need to come out tomorrow and show how good we can play."

The effect of not having Chase Utley in the lineup may finally be catching up to the potent Phillies' offense, especially against right-handed pitching. The top four hitters went 1-for-13 with two walks and a single (by Ryan Howard), continuing a collective August slump that could coincide with Utley's absence.

Rollins is 9-for-48 (.189) since Aug. 2; Iguchi is 2-for-21 (.095) since Aug. 9 and Pat Burrell is 6-for-32 (.188) since being moved into the third spot on Aug. 5. Howard is hitting (.200) since Utley broke his hand on July 26. The Phillies struck out 24 times in the first two games of the series.

What gives? Are Shawn Hill and Redding really this good?

"Our lineup is completely different without Utley and Victorino," Manuel said. "When we're going right, we stack the lineup with lefties, and it's very difficult for right-handers to shut us down."

Now, it's not so hard.

"From a managerial standpoint -- and Charlie likes to manage righties and lefties -- to have two guys missing like Chase and Shane is tough," said Jayson Werth, who is hitting .282 since returning on Aug. 1. "But we haven't been playing that bad. We just haven't swung the bats well as a team the last two games. It's just one of those seasonal lulls you go through."

Washington got two runs off starter Kyle Kendrick in the second, thanks to a missed call at first by umpire Marvin Hudson, and a large mental error by Ryan Howard on a routine grounder.

Austin Kearns should've been called out on a double-play grounder to Wes Helms, but Hudson ruled that Tadahito Iguchi's relay throw was late.

"I was screaming and hollering," manager Charlie Manuel said. "But I didn't want to get thrown out so early in the game."

Gaffe No. 2 was on Howard. After a walk to Ryan Church, Howard fielded Brian Schneider's grounder, looked to second, then to first, where Kendrick appeared to be waiting for a throw. Howard didn't flip the ball and everyone was safe.

"It looked like he went to throw to second and changed his mind," Manuel said. "He double-clutched it. Kendrick got to the bag, and after he double-clutched it, he couldn't put enough on the throw and had trouble getting rid of the ball."

Howard didn't speak to reporters after the game, but Kendrick took the blame.

"I saw him and thought he was going to throw to second, to Jimmy [Rollins], so I looked for the ball coming from there," Kendrick said. "Then I heard him yelling, 'Kyle,' and I looked over too late. It was a mistake on my part."

Still, Kendrick nearly escaped when Howard made a sliding grab of Nook Logan's foul popup for the second out, but pitcher Tim Redding stroked a two-run double to left, just past Helms. The Nationals added two more runs in the sixth, one on Church's 10th homer of the season.

"He pulled it down the line," Kendrick said of Redding's double. "Maybe I should have thrown a slider there, but he put a good swing on it. I wanted it down at the knees, but it was up. As a pitcher, I'm looking for a fastball there, too."

The Phillies didn't have much chance against Redding (2-3), who mowed through the Phillies lineup until the seventh, when he walked Aaron Rowand and allowed an infield single to Helms. That brought in reliever Saul Rivera, who walked Jayson Werth and surrendered a single to Chris Coste, making the score 4-2.

Manuel smelled at least a tie game.

"We had a chance in the seventh and couldn't get it done," he said. "If we just hit some fly balls or execute moving runners..."

Branyan, fresh off Tuesday's game-winning swing, took his hacks against Ray King, but whiffed. Rollins did the same, flailing, and Tadahito Iguchi grounded out against reliever Luis Ayala.

"We didn't do it," Manuel said.

Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.