It was a game in which Nationals pitchers walked eight batters. After two games, Washington hurlers have allowed 17 walks.
Right-hander Jason Marquis, making his Nationals debut, looked like the player who had serious control problems early in Spring Training. In the first inning, Marquis threw 28 pitches, walked three batters and allowed two runs.
After walking his third batter in the inning, however, Marquis retired eight of the next nine hitters he faced, but he got himself into trouble again in the fourth. With one out, Marquis allowed an RBI single to Phillies starter Cole Hamels. In the next inning, with the game tied at 3, Marquis didn't retire a batter. With a runner on second, Chase Utley singled to left to drive in Placido Polanco, giving Philly the lead.
Then, Howard came to the plate and hit a two-run homer, effectively putting the game out of reach. It was Howard's second homer in as many games against the Nats in 2010.
Howard said he was trying to make up for the error that he made in the bottom of the fourth inning. With two outs, he booted a ground ball hit by Nyjer Morgan. The next hitter, Ian Desmond, doubled near the left-field line scoring Morgan and tying the game at 3.
"I just wanted to go back out there and -- I wasn't trying to hit a home run -- try to have a good AB. Try to hit a double or something," Howard said.
Marquis, who left the game after the Howard homer, pitched four-plus innings, giving up six runs on eight hits.
"The whole Phillies lineup is dangerous, but they all can be pitched to," Marquis said. "They have holes in their swing, you just have to make pitches against this lineup. There is no letup. I wasn't able to make as many pitches as I wanted to."
If Howard has holes in his swing, the Nationals have not found them. After two games vs. Washington this season, the left-handed-hitting Howard has five RBIs.
"Selectively, we have a few guys who have some success against Howard, but the overall picture is, he just hurts us," manager Jim Riggleman said. "We tried some different things on him. It's a game of adjustments. He is making adjustment on our pitchers and our pitchers will try to do something else.
"Howard is so dangerous. He is in that select group of power hitters. That's why they hit 40 to 50 homers a year. They are that good. You have to figure out when not to pitch to him and get the next guy. In most cases, the next guy is really good, also."
Hamels pitched well enough to win in his first start of the season, lasting five innings and giving up three runs -- two earned -- on five hits. Desmond did most of the damage against Hamels, hitting his first homer of the season and driving in two runs.
Desmond is one guy who made an adjustment on Hamels. After striking out in the first inning, Desmond received advice from Willie Harris, who told the rookie to slow the game down.
"I got things going. I guess tried to do too much [in the first at-bat]," Desmond said. "It was good to get something going against a lefty. Last year, I was down against lefties. It's good for my confidence. I have to face that guy a bunch this year. Now it's going to be a little bit more comforting to know that I did get him. I saw the ball well off him. That's pretty good."
As for Marquis, Riggelman foresees improvement in the future for his club's key offseason acquisition.
"I don't think Marquis is at the top of his game, yet. ... What we are going to see is not there yet," Riggleman said.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less