In yet another game where Washington had its share of opportunities, the Nationals simply couldn't convert. The result was their fourth straight loss, falling 9-3 to the Phillies before a crowd of 23,526 on a chilly Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park.
The Nationals were 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and are a combined 3-for-23 over their last two games.
"There's only so much you can do," Nationals manager Manny Acta said. "You preach, teach and keep them working at it."
When pressed further about the lack of offensive punch and defensive lapses, Acta added, "I can't take them out there to do pop-ups. They've got to do it. They're trying hard."
Washington fell behind 3-0 on a mammoth two-run homer by Ryan Howard in the third inning. Howard deposited John Patterson's 1-0 fastball deep into the right-field bleachers.
"I was just trying to get ahead of him," Patterson said. "In that situation, you don't want to get behind him. I didn't want to lose Howard."
Patterson -- who surrendered eight hits and six earned runs in 5 1/3 innings while falling to 0-4 with a 7.71 ERA this season -- didn't have his best stuff. But he says his stamina is improving all the time.
"I felt better than I have felt," Patterson said. "My breaking ball was better. Fastball-wise, it was better today."
Acta was encouraged by Patterson's performance.
"I liked what I saw today," Acta said. "I think he's making progress. He was able to maintain his velocity today. Obviously, he still doesn't have his power. He maintained 88-89 miles per hour on his fastball."
While the Nationals scored twice in the fourth, they didn't provide Patterson with nearly enough offensive support. In the fourth, Dmitri Young hit a bloop RBI single to right, scoring Felipe Lopez, and Austin Kearns laced an RBI double off the center-field fence -- just missing a homer -- to drive in Young.
"We didn't play very good defense behind [Patterson]," Acta said. "Some of them don't show up on the scoreboard. We missed cutoff men, and then the next pitch is a double play ball, which cost us. We didn't play good defense behind him."
The Phillies added one run in the fifth and three in the sixth, thanks largely to Chase Utley, who set a career-high by going 5-for-5 along with three RBIs.
Acta said he's seen more than enough of Utley and Howard over the past two games.
"They're as tough a three-four as there are in the big leagues," Acta said. "Those two guys are scary. As soon as Howard heats up, that's scary. Every day, you just try to contain those guys."
The Nationals arrived in Philadelphia just as the Phillies seemed to be turning the corner after a tough start. But Washington hasn't changed its approach because the Phillies are a hot team.
"We approach every game the same whether it's the Phillies, Mets or Marlins," Acta said. "We don't worry who we play. We just want to win."
The mantra is the same for Patterson, who will take the same approach for his next start.
"Go out there, get better every time," Patterson said. "Continue to work and don't quit."
Andy Jasner is a contributor to MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.