Jeff Kobernus can't make the catch at the wall off Michael Young, perhaps picture evidence of how close the team is to playing well without actually doing so. (Image: Howard Smith, USA Today)

Nats Walked Off by Phils, Fall Below .500

On a night where the storylines kept changing, the last one, the one that counted, had a cruelly familiar feel to it for the Washington Nationals.

One half-inning after Chad Tracy‘s second game-tying homer in a week had the Nationals on a high, they were brought crashing down by the bat of Dominic Brown, who flared a game-winning single to power the Philadelphia Phillies to a 5-4 win Monday night at Citizens Bank Park. The game-winner came off Fernando Abad, whose slow walk off the mound as the opponent celebrated was the same one he took on Friday night in Cleveland.

And this was all after the pre-game focus was on the starting pitching. Dan Haren took the hill for Washington looking to right the ship in a notorious hitter’s ballpark, while Philadelphia sent John Lannan to the hill for the first time since April after a DL stint. Lannan, the Nationals de facto ace for a period of time when the team was among the dregs in baseball, was making his first appearance against his former club.

For a Nationals team that has struggled in every offensive category this season and was coming off one of the more brutal displays of situational hitting — or lack thereof — in recent memory, the chance to face a soft-tossing lefty coming off a two-month sabbatical should have been the tonic that got the team moving again, and initially it did seem like that might be the case. Jayson Werth drove home Anthony Rendon with a single in the first inning, the Nationals first RBI on a non-home run hit since Thursday in Colorado. But Lannan settled in for the most part, completing five innings and surrendering two runs.

Haren wasn’t quite so successful. Ryan Howard was the main thorn in Haren’s side, hammering a solo home run to tie the game at 1-1 in the second, and then singling to plate Ben Revere in the fifth inning, making the score 4-2. In between Howard’s two RBI hits, Delmon Young gave the Phillies the lead with a bases-loaded, two-run double in the third that just eluded a diving Jayson Werth in right field.

The Washington deficit remained two until the eighth, when Ian Desmond drove in Ryan Zimmerman, who had doubled. But when pinch-hitter Adam LaRoche couldn’t keep the rally going, it meant the Phillies would get to utilize closer Jonathan Papelbon, who was a perfect 13-for-13 in save opportunities entering the game.

All appeared well for Papelbon, who retired the first two Washington hitters and got ahead of Tracy 0-2. But just as he did against the Indians on Saturday, Tracy delivered, yanking a game-tying solo shot just inside the right-field foul pole to give the Nationals new life.

Just as quickly however, that life was snuffed out. Abad allowed a leadoff single to Ben Revere in the ninth, and he scampered to third on a one-out hit by Jimmy Rollins. Abad recovered to fan Steven Lerud, but Brown fought off a good pitch from Abad to collect the walk-off hit and send the Nationals home a game under .500 again at 34-35.

The task will get no easier for the Nationals on Tuesday, as Cliff Lee (8-2, 2.55 ERA) will take the hill for the Phillies against fellow left Ross Detwiler (2-4, 3.02).

Tags: Nationals Philadelphia Phillies Phillies Washington Nationals

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