WASHINGTON - The Phillies' struggles against the teams that matter most continued Friday night in a 7-3 loss to the Nationals that was, for the most part, over after the second inning.
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It was the worst start in the young career of Nick Pivetta, who allowed six runs and put eight men on base while lasting one inning. He was lifted with nobody out in the second after starting the inning by allowing a walk, two-run homer and single.
His ERA rose from 3.27 to 4.50.
Pivetta is the first non-injured starting pitcher in the Phillies' last 358 games to pitch only one inning. We're assuming he's not hurt because his velocity was the same as usual. His fastball averaged 95.0 mph and maxed out at 97.3.
The loss makes the Phillies 17-14 and a woeful 6-12 against the NL East. The Nationals (17-16) have won six in a row.
Leading off for the fourth straight game, Bryce Harper hit home runs to left field and center field in his first two at-bats. The leadoff homer snuck out just over the opposite-field fence; the second one was one of the harder hit balls you'll see. It traveled an estimated 473 feet at 112.1 mph.
Since moving to the leadoff spot, Harper is 6 for 16 with four homers and a double. Even two of the outs he made - a pair of deep lineouts to center - were impressive.
You'd think the Nationals would want to take more advantage of his power, but the offense has taken off with Harper batting first.
24th time ... not the charm
This was Gio Gonzalez's 24th career start against the Phillies, the most by any active pitcher.
Again, he shut them down. Gonzalez has allowed three runs or fewer in 21 of the 24 starts and two runs or fewer 15 times.
The Phillies' best chance against him came in the first inning when they were awarded several gifts. Gonzalez walked two batters in the inning, missed a double-play opportunity when his foot couldn't find the first-base bag, and watched his third baseman boot a ground ball. The Phils stranded the bases loaded.
The Phillies will avoid Stephen Strasburg in this series but will face the early NL Cy Young favorite Sunday in Max Scherzer (6-1, 1.79).
Back to back
The Phillies were thrilled that Gonzalez hit the showers after five innings. Facing reliever Trevor Gott in the sixth, Carlos Santana and Maikel Franco crushed back-to-back homers. Santana's traveled 445 feet, Franco's 404 feet.
The baseball gods might finally be smiling upon Santana. Aside from the homer - which involved no luck - he hit a cue-shot double down the opposite-field baseline for the second time in three nights. That makes up for two of his many lineouts.
Franco could have had a multi-homer game if not for that meddling leftfielder. Franco was robbed of a two-run shot when Matt Adams - yes, that Matt Adams - leaped over the wall in left in the fourth inning.
You know it's not your night when Adams is robbing home runs. (He also hit a two-run shot.)
Drew Hutchison gave up a homer to the first batter he faced, Adams, but went on to pitch five solid innings of long relief for the Phillies, allowing just that run and striking out five. He saved the bullpen and at least allowed the Phils to make it somewhat competitive.
Vince Velasquez (1-4, 5.70) looks to rebound Saturday (4:05 p.m.) from two straight poor starts.
The Phillies face right-hander Tanner Roark (2-2, 3.55).