Nats face Hill that they can't climb

Nats fall to Phils to drop straight game

WASHINGTON -- Prior to Friday's action, it was a given that right-hander Shawn Hill would give the Nationals at least five innings and a chance to win.

However, that wasn't the case. Hill had his worst outing of the season, as the Nationals were bested by the Phillies, 6-3, in front of 26,949 fans at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium.

The Nationals' offense was as much to blame for the loss as Hill. They had Phillies right-hander Adam Eaton on the ropes, but they couldn't capitalize.

In the first inning, Washington had the bases loaded and one out, but Ryan Church flied out to center field for the second out in the frame. Austin Kearns followed, and his bases-loaded walk sent Felipe Lopez home to give Washington a 1-0 lead. Robert Fick then flied out to left to end the inning.

"That was our biggest chance there, and we had poor at-bats there," manager Manny Acta said. "The only way we scored runs was because Eaton was wild and we walked into a run. That was our opportunity there. We couldn't do much with our offense today."

Washington managed to score two more runs in the bottom of the fifth inning on a two-run single by Fick, but, by that time, the game was out of reach.

It was all Phillies after the Nats took the 1-0 lead. Hill and catcher Brian Schneider had no answers for the top of Philadelphia's lineup. Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Pat Burrell and Ryan Howard had a combined nine hits.

In the top of the second, Howard homered over the left-center-field wall to tie the game at 1. Unlike right-hander Jason Bergmann, who tried to throw the ball down and in, Hill's game plan was to throw the ball down and away. Hill threw the ball away, but he left it up, and Howard smoked the ball.

"How strong is he, going to the opposite field at RFK like it was nothing?" Acta said. "It tells you how strong he is."

Said Hill: "He's obviously a very good hitter as everybody knows, but going down and away is one way you can go get him, but when you are away and up, that's when [he gets to you]."

An inning later, Utley had an RBI single and Burrell hit a two-run blast.

In the fifth, Rollins homered and Howard drove in Utley to make it a 6-1 game.

"They just hit Shawn. That's a good ballclub over there. If you don't believe me, check the stats," Acta said. "They are in the top three in hitting. They have scored [200 more] runs than we have and 80 more home runs than we have. If they can hit Shawn Hill, they can hit anybody."

Hill, who lasted 4 2/3 innings and gave up all six runs on eight hits, was taken out of the game after the Howard hit. It was Hill's shortest outing since he hurled 1 1/3 innings against the Pirates on July 9, 2004.

"I left a lot of balls over the middle of the plate. I didn't have a lot of good movement on the ball today," Hill said. "I yanked a lot of pitches, kind of let a lot of balls fly on me. I left balls over the middle of the plate, especially to the guys that hit home runs off me. Chase got a couple of base hits. They are all good hitters. I left pitches where they could get to them."

Hill is playing with a left shoulder injury, and he'll have surgery on Oct. 4. He has said in the past that it has affected his mechanics and his right elbow. Whether that played a role in Friday's game is anybody's guess. The righty said that he would have to go to the video tape to see how much the injury affected his pitching.

"[The pain] is still there. It's bugging me," Hill said about his left shoulder. "I won't know until I look at the films. I don't know for sure if it was a big change. It has been bothering me the whole time. Whether it was a significant difference to cause the pitches [to do] what they were doing, I don't know. But [the pain] is still there."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.