Nats hope to rebound in Philadelphia

The Washington Nationals are trying to stay afloat in the NL wild card race and cannot afford to lose ground against inferior opponents.

The Nationals will try to even their three-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies Tuesday at Citizens Bank Park and dropped the opener of this set, 3-2, after the bullpen blew a strong start from Stephen Strasburg.

Washington was ahead by a 2-1 score until the Phillies pushed a pair of runs across in the bottom of the eighth inning to take control. Tyler Clippard relieved Strasburg in the eighth and allowed two runs on hits by Jimmy Rollins and Carlos Ruiz. Rollins tied the game with a two-out double.

"That was the biggest mistake in the inning, not going after him," Clippard said of going against Rollins. "I felt I made a good pitch, 3-2. It was obviously down. I didn't challenge him like I should have. I got ahead of him. I didn't put him away and that was difference."

Strasburg struck out 10 batters and allowed one unearned run in six innings. He said the heat played a role in his ability to grip the ball.

"It was tough, obviously, with the humidity and you sweat a lot out there. So, it was tough getting a grip. It affected my ability to have some quick innings," Strasburg said afterward. "With the way the game was going, I really didn't have many quick innings or anything. I was definitely feeling it in the end. It was tough."

Ryan Zimmerman homered for the Nationals, losers in three of four games. The Nats sit 7 1/2 games off one of the final two playoff spots in the NL.

Gio Gonzalez gets the ball for Washington Tuesday and ended a seven-game winless drought (0-3) his last time out. Gonzalez tossed seven shutout innings and scattered three hits in a 9-0 win over Miami last Thursday and is 8-6 with a 3.56 earned run average.

The left-hander has pitched well in his career against the Phillies and is 4-1 with a 2.31 ERA in six starts.

Philadelphia managed to battle back Monday for its fifth win in the last nine tries and Rollins' patience at the plate in the eighth paid off. Ruiz led the offense with two hits and two RBI, while Phils starter Cole Hamels did not figure into the decision with seven innings of one-run ball and eight K's.

"I felt like he did his job there, we had fresh arms in the bullpen," Phils interim manager Ryne Sandberg said on his rationale on taking Hamels out after seven innings and just 87 pitches.

B.J. Rosenberg picked up the win by getting the last out in the eighth inning and closer Jonathan Papelbon posted his 24th save.

Ethan Martin draws the start for the Phillies Tuesday and is 2-3 with a 6.39 ERA in six starts. The right-hander was dealt the loss in last Thursday's 11-3 defeat at the hands of the New York Mets and gave up three runs in four innings. Martin has allowed three runs in three of his last four starts.

Martin has never faced the Nationals.

The Nats swept a three-game set at home versus the Phillies from Aug. 9-10.