"We let the game slip away from us," manager Charlie Manuel said. "We didn't execute the last two innings. [The road trip] could've been a heck of a lot better than 6-4, because we have 29 games left, and we're getting to a place where we need to win as many games as we possibly can. Our bullpen couldn't hold them."
Despite finishing August at 18-11 -- a month-long stretch that saw the Phillies erase a 5 1/2-game deficit in the Wild Card standings and leap into second place behind San Diego -- the players will think about the month's sour final game that left them a full game back.
The loss was the first time Philadelphia lost a game when leading after eight inning.
"Everybody should look at this as a game we should've won, but you don't hold your head down on just one game," said reliever Arthur Rhodes, whose blown save in the ninth led to extra innings. "It might hurt us in the long run, but [Friday] we have a game against Atlanta, and we have to pick it back up."
The Nationals iced it with a two-run 10th against reliever Aaron Fultz, who was trying to protect a one-run lead, but would up taking his first loss as Phillie. An inning-opening infield single by Nick Johnson opened the door for Washington. Johnson bounced a ball two steps to Howard's right. He backhanded it and flipped to Fultz, but the ball landed short of the bag, and Fultz couldn't recover.
Johnson eventually scored the tying run on a single by Brian Schneider, whose passed ball allowed the Phillies to take the lead in the top of the 10th. Marlon Anderson, who advanced to third on a flyout to center, scored when Fultz's wild pitch bounced about 10 feet in front of the plate.
That play in itself was bizarre. Fultz threw a breaking pitch that pinch-hitter Ryan Church missed. It hit the dirt and was blocked by Mike Lieberthal, sending it in the air to Fultz's right. Anderson streaked down the line and past Fultz, who unsuccessfully lunged at him.
"I did everything I could," Fultz said. "Mike did everything right. He blocked the ball and it bounced in
front of him, just too far away for either of us to make a play. I didn't tag him. The play was closer than I thought it would be, but I couldn't get there."
"Marlon Anderson got a good jump and was determined to score," Manuel said. "It was tremendous baserunning."
Fultz might not have been in that situation had Rhodes done his job an inning earlier. Working on his third straight day for the first time this season, Rhodes began the inning by muffing a drag bunt by Anderson. The play was originally scored an error on Rhodes, then changed to a single.
"I should've fielded it, but it hit the top of my glove," Rhodes said. "It's one of those things where you have to make the play. [Anderson] wasn't behind me, so I would've gone straight for the bag if I would've fielded it good."
Rhodes surrendered a double to left to Schneider, a play that left a two-inch gash on David Dellucci's right knee. Even then, Rhodes got the next two batters out without a run scoring. He wanted to face Alfonso Soriano, but intentionally walked him with first base open.
With two strikes, Felipe Lopez grounded a single past Jimmy Rollins, tying the score.
Philadelphia regained the lead again in the 10th, when, with Abraham Nunez on third, Rollins swung through a pitch from Ryan Wagner, and Schneider committed a passed ball, allowing Nunez to score the go-ahead run. Replays showed that the ball was actually foul tipped, though that was rendered irrelevant.
Rather than discuss a homer that seemed meaningless to him after the tough loss, Howard remained upset about his poor throw to Fultz in the 10th inning.
"I tried to rush the throw it a little bit," Howard said. "[Setting the record] was great, but the big thing
was we lost the game. [Friday], we'll have to get on the right track against Atlanta."