WASHINGTON - Kyle Kendrick concluded it was needless to back up home plate. He watched Steve Lombardozzi's double skip to the warning track in the fifth inning of a 5-2 Phillies loss. Two Nationals scampered around the bases as Kendrick gazed.
He blew on his right hand and lowered his head when the ball, at last, returned to the infield. The inning should have never reached this point, and it was a moment for Kendrick to lament that fact.
The Phillies squandered a bases-loaded chance in the top of the fifth. The Nationals blew it open in the bottom half with ill-fated Kendrick pitches and slipshod Phillies defense.
"Things didn't go our way," manager Charlie Manuel said. "We were right there with them until we went back on the field."
This rivalry's newest chapter resembled a cruel familiarity for these Phillies. Both teams sputtered to Friday, waterlogged by middling offenses. The Nationals entered 2013 with great expectations, ones much higher than that of the Phillies.
Jordan Zimmermann wiggled from what little danger the Phillies created. Kendrick walked a tightrope all night; his teammates' fielding hurt more than it helped.
It unraveled in the fifth. Bryce Harper started with a single. Adam LaRoche worked a 3-0 count. Kendrick threw him a sinker down the middle. LaRoche hit his second triple in three seasons.
"I was tired of walking guys and he put a good swing on it," Kendrick said.
Ben Revere raced toward the 402-foot sign in dead center and overran the ball. His leap, which morphed into a backward lunge, was futile. It was a difficult play. Revere said the ball tipped his glove.
"I'm sure I'll make that play next time," Revere said.
Once Ian Desmond struck out, Kendrick saw an exit. Then Kurt Suzuki smashed one in the hole for a run-scoring single. Tyler Moore dribbled another that Michael Young charged and could not dislodge from his glove. It went for an infield single.
That extended the inning for Lombardozzi, a reserve infielder playing for injured Danny Espinosa. He crushed a 2-0, high-and-tight sinker for the crucial two-run double.
Kendrick permitted 12 baserunners in five innings. He escaped unscathed in the fourth because Revere threw out Moore at home. After walking 10 batters in his first eight starts, Kendrick has issued eight walks in his last two outings. The pinpoint command that contributed to his magical start this year has deserted him, although his ERA remains a sterling 3.29.
Washington scored a run in the third without a hit. Kendrick threw two nasty change-ups to Harper, who whiffed at both. Then he worked a walk, the first of three consecutive given up by Kendrick. Desmond hit a sacrifice fly to foul territory.
Before the game, most of the Phillies hitters sat on the floor of an underground batting cage as they discussed a strategy vs. Zimmermann. Fifteen minutes later, they walked up the tunnel and to the field, where they scored two or fewer runs for the 19th time in 2013.
The best rally was scuttled by a Revere double-play ball. He is tied for fifth in the majors with seven double plays. This one happened with the bases loaded and one out in the fifth inning. Revere is fast, but 70 percent of his batted balls are on the ground. That is the highest rate in baseball. Double plays are bound to materialize.
Four times, Zimmermann pitched a clean inning. The Phillies simply do not reach base enough. Zimmermann did not walk a batter in seven innings. He became the 12th opposing starter in 48 games to not walk a Phillies hitter. The Phillies are 3-9 in those games.
With a chance to reach .500 and tie these vaunted Nationals, the results mirrored the mediocrity that has come to define 2013.