WASHINGTON - Brilliant performances by Jake Arrieta and Max Scherzer turned out not to matter as the bullpens of the Phillies and Nationals both failed in the latter innings.
Holding a three-run lead with two outs in the eighth inning, Tommy Hunter allowed a two-run single, then Hector Neris blew the save in the ninth by allowing two runs in a 5-4 Phillies loss.
With the bases loaded and nobody out, Neris walked in the tying run, then gave up a game-winning single to Wilmer Difo.
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This one hurts.
It's the Phils' fourth straight series loss, and it's even more demoralizing in the wake of Arrieta's outing.
The loss makes the Phillies 18-15 as they head home for a four-game series against the Giants.
Arrieta allowed one run on two hits over six innings, needing just 75 pitches.
But the Phils had to turn to their bullpen earlier than they liked because of how unhittable Scherzer was.
On the 20-year anniversary of Kerry Wood's 20-strikeout game, Scherzer struck out 15 over 6⅓ innings. It took him just five innings to set the NL season-high in K's.
Appropriately, both starting pitchers were pulled at the same time. Gabe Kapler made the tough decision to pinch-hit for Arrieta with one out and a man on second in the seventh inning and the Phils trailing by a run.
After Kapler made the move, Nats manager Dave Martinez pulled Scherzer, who had thrown 111 pitches. That's the flipside of striking out so many.
The decision paid off, as Nick Williams singled in Pedro Florimon to tie the game. Later in the inning, Rhys Hoskins doubled in Williams and scored on an Odubel Herrera single up the middle.
Think the Phillies were glad to see Scherzer lifted?
Great signs from Franco
This is one of the more impressive weeks Maikel Franco has had in the majors. He's shown power, plate selection, the ability to spoil pitches and hit the ball the other way. The power isn't new but the other positives are.
Franco singled in his first at-bat against Scherzer after making the notoriously quick worker throw nine pitches.
In the ninth, he gave the Phillies extra cushion with a line-drive homer to left.
Over his last 14 games, Franco has hit .347 with four homers and three doubles.
Herrera is one player Scherzer cannot overpower. Herrera doubled twice against him Sunday, making him 12 for 36 (.333) lifetime off Scherzer with three doubles, a triple and six walks.
Herrera also extended his on-base streak to 35 games. The last Phillie with a longer streak was Jimmy Rollins during his 38-game hit streak in 2006.
Herrera is hitting a robust .336/.394/.487 this season.
Harper held at bay again
Bryce Harper homered in his first two at-bats of the series against Nick Pivetta and then went 0 for 11 the rest of the series.
The Phillies come home for a four-game series against the Giants, who are without aces Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto. Though the Giants have won seven of eight, those key injuries make it the right time to be playing them.
Monday - Zach Eflin (0-0, 1.50) vs. Jeff Samardzija (1-1, 5.27)
Tuesday - Aaron Nola (4-1, 2.17) vs. LHP Derek Holland (1-3, 5.70)
Wednesday - Nick Pivetta (1-2, 4.76) vs. Chris Stratton (3-2, 3.99)
Thursday - Vince Velasquez (2-4, 5.14) vs. LHP Ty Blach (3-3, 3.60)