WASHINGTON - Yesterday, it was Danny Espinosa. Today, it was Laynce Nix.
And both days, it was a Phillies offense that was unable to overcome the damage that the two unheralded Nationals players inflicted.
Nix hit a go-ahead solo home run with two out in the third inning, then protected that lead with a remarkable, belly-flopping catch in the sixth to rob the Phillies of a potential go-ahead run in a game that ended in a 2-1 Nationals victory.
Roy Oswalt was more effective than dominant, allowing two runs and two walks with three strikeouts while throwing 79 pitches in five innings of work on a sweltering day in the nation's capital. Oswalt has thrown more than 96 pitches only once this season - a victory at San Diego on April 21 - but has allowed fewer than three runs in eight of his nine starts. Take away an ugly outing against the Diamondbacks on April 26 and he has allowed just 10 earned runs in 47 innings. Even with yesterday's loss, which dropped him to 3-3, Oswalt's ERA sat at 2.70.
He likely would have lasted longer than five innings yesterday, but Jayson Werth's RBI single in the first and Nix's solo home run in the third were enough to give the Nationals a 2-1 lead when Oswalt's spot in the order came up in the top of the sixth. At the time, the Phillies had runners on first and second with two out, prompting Charlie Manuel to call on rookie outfielder Domonic Brown. Nationals manager Jim Riggleman countered by calling on lefty reliever Doug Slaten. The move appeared to work in the Phillies favor, as Brown sliced a fly ball to the gap in leftfield for what looked to be a sure game-tying hit. But Nix somehow chased down the ball, launching his body parallel to the ground and snagging the ball just before it landed on the turf. Nix landed belly-down, his glove hand high in the air.
There was no doubt about it.
Rookie relievers Michael Stutes and Antonio Bastardo combined to hold the Nationals scoreless for the final three innings, but it did not matter.
The Phillies managed five hits and one run - Ryan Howard led off the second with a double and later scored on a throwing error by third baseman Alex Cora - after managing just two runs off of Jason Marquis on Tuesday night. That game features rookie second baseman Espinosa hitting two home runs off of Cliff Lee en route to a 10-2 win.
The Phillies are now 34-22, with an day off Thursday before the start of a three-game series in Pittsburgh on Friday night.