Righty allows six runs in four innings pitched

One team appeared to give up on its 2012 season Tuesday while the other remains in prime position to win a National League East division title. But after the first four innings of a series-opener between the Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies it was hard to tell which team was which.

Philadelphia traded starting outfielders Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino early in the day. But it still has three ace pitchers, including star left-hander Cliff Lee, who kept Washington in check while Stephen Strasburg posted the worst outing of his career in an 8-0 loss at Nationals Park.

Lee tossed seven scoreless innings with seven strikeouts and one walk. After escaping a bases-loaded jam in the third inning, he retired 13 of the next 14 batters faced with the only hit an infield single by Roger Bernadina. The Nats fell to 61-41 with the loss.

Nats notes
» John Lannan will be recalled from Triple-A Syracuse on Friday to start one of the two-night doubleheader games against the Miami Marlins, manager Davey Johnson said.
» Both third baseman Ryan Zimmerman and first baseman Adam LaRoche sat out Tuesday's game because of lingering back injuries that flared up during a weekend series in Milwaukee.
» Jesus Flores managed the only extra-base hit against Philadelphia in Tuesday's 8-0 loss with a two-out double in the second inning.

Strasburg, meanwhile, was in trouble from the start. He gave up two hits in the first inning and escaped damage thanks to a spectacular double play turned by second baseman Steve Lombardozzi and shortstop Danny Espinosa. But in the second inning, No. 8 batter Kevin Frandsen ripped a two-run home into right-center field -- his first since 2007. In the third, speedy Juan Pierre singled, stole second base and third base off Strasburg and catcher Jesus Flores, and then scored on a throwing error.

"It's always a new day so you can't really worry about what you did the last time," said Strasburg, who gave up just one run in seven innings in his last outing against the New York Mets. "It's in the books, and that's what I got to keep doing now. Keep moving forward and get back to work."

Lee himself drove home a run with a single in the fourth and Jimmy Rollins followed with a two-run inside-the-park homer that escaped the grasp of right fielder Bryce Harper, who slammed into the wall and fell to the warning track as the ball skittered back towards the infield. Bernadina, shaded towards left-center, didn't hustle over to back up the play and just like that it was 6-0.

Philadelphia sat on that lead the rest of the game. Strasburg exited the contest after just four innings, the third-shortest stint of his career in 38 starts. He has twice lasted three innings and two other times he's been pulled after four. In the end, he gave up six runs on eight hits -- four for extra bases -- with a walk and just three strikeouts.

Relievers Tom Gorzelanny and Henry Rodriguez pitched four scoreless innings in relief before the Phillies tacked on two insurance runs in the ninth inning. Drew Storen entered the game with runners at second and third and one out and allowed an RBI ground out to Carlos Ruiz and an RBI single to former teammate Laynce Nix. Both runs were charged to Rodriguez.

Washington didn't manage a baserunner against Philadelphia's bullpen, either, with all six batters retired in order to make it 19 of the final 20 hitless. Harper was 0-for-4 and his batting average dropped to .258.

"I'm all over the place right now," Harper said. "I'm just trying to find some mellowness at the plate and in the box. Just trying to work at it every day and take some good from every at bat and take something good from every game."