Left-hander Matt Chico started in place of Shawn Hill, who missed a turn because of a sore right elbow, and Philadelphia decided to play home run derby on him.
After the Phillies took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on a double by Ryan Howard, Chico gave up a solo home run to Pedro Feliz in the second inning. Chico appeared to have settled down in the next two innings, but trouble followed. Both Shane Victorino and Howard hit home runs in the fourth inning.
"He did OK, but he lacked command of his pitches," Nationals manager Manny Acta said of Chico. "He cut some pitches that he didn't mean to do. The pitch that kind of sucked the energy out of us was that 0-2 breaking ball that he hung to Howard [in the fourth inning]."
Chico lasted five innings and gave up four runs on seven hits. He struck out four and walked one. Chico is expected to go back to the bullpen, while Hill is scheduled to make his next start next week against the Padres in San Diego.
Hill played catch on Tuesday and was still feeling some pain in the elbow and right forearm, an injury he has had since Spring Training.
"I'll be able to start," Hill said. "I don't expect to be 100 percent. I don't expect it to disappear and all of a sudden I feel in tip top shape. It will be good enough where I can go out and throw. It's a matter of what I can deal with. The extra days off and cortisone shot will calm it down enough. I think the fluid being strained helped a lot."
In the sixth inning, 13 Phillies came to the plate during an eight-run onslaught. Howard highlighted the scoring with a two-run home run. Nationals right-hander Jesus Colome received most of the punishment, giving up six runs in one-third of an inning. Chris Schroder gave up an additional two runs in the sixth.
It was an inning in which Phillies starter Jamie Moyer had two at-bats. Colome walked Moyer in his first at-bat to prolong the inning.
Overall, the bullpen threw 118 pitches and right-hander Joel Hanrahan was the only one who held the Phillies scoreless.
Early in the game, Washington had a chance to score off Moyer, but couldn't take advantage of the situation. In the second inning, the Nationals had runners on first and third and no outs, but Wily Mo Pena flied out to center field and Elijah Dukes and Chico both struck out.
In the third and fourth innings, Felipe Lopez and Jesus Flores led off with doubles, but neither player came in to score. For the game, the Nationals went 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position and left nine runners on base.
"That set the tone for us." said Acta. "We had plenty of opportunities to score some runs off Jamie and were not able to do it. With our approach, we continue to struggle with runners in scoring position. It's pretty clear Jamie is not going to challenging guys inside. He is going to stay away with off-speed stuff.
Washington's offense has been a disappointment thus far, hitting .237. Asked if he was surprised by the lack of hitting, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said, "We have had a lot of injuries that people don't really realize. Dmitri (Young) has been out. Nick (Johnson) and Austin (Kearns) have been banged up. Who knows how long they have been playing when they were banged up. Neither of them are going to tell anybody.
"Other than that, we are young, especially in our division. There are some pitchers who know how to get young guys out, especially with runners in scoring position. We are learning. Hopefully, we will learn when we make mistakes. That's all you can ask for."
Moyer lasted six shutout innings and gave up seven hits. After the game, Acta gave the media a baseball lesson when it comparing Colome, a hard-throwing right-hander, to Moyer, a soft-tossing left-hander.
"It's a great way to illustrate how the game works," Acta said. "(Colome) comes in throwing mid-90s and doesn't get anybody out. Jamie Moyer is throwing 82 miles per hour, but he is locating the ball and gets everybody out."
Washington has now lost two straight games and dropped its record to 20-28.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.