The Washington Times - July 10, 2013, 12:15AM

PHILADELPHIA — It’s been almost three years since Jayson Werth, once a conquering hero in these parts, signed on the dotted line of his $126 million contract with the Washington Nationals. That gave Philadelphia Phillies fans all the reason they needed to turn their admiration into contempt. Inside Citizens Bank Park, they need little prompting to boo the Nationals’ right fielder lustily at any opportunity. 

So as Werth strode to the plate in the eighth inning Tuesday night, Cole Hamels had his back against the ropes. The bases were loaded. There were two outs. Everyone in the ballpark knew that the game hung in the balance of one swing. The fact that it’d have to come off Werth’s bat made for even better theater as the count ran full.

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Perhaps on another night, with another umpire behind the plate, the game would’ve turned.

Perhaps if the Nationals could avoid, for one game even, their maddening tendency to produce in bursts or hardly at all, Werth’s swing wouldn’t have fallen short of the warning track. 

But in the Nationals’ 4-2 loss to the Phillies, the fans who love to hate Werth for no particular reason other than that he left them were rewarded. They stood and they cheered, enlivening a ballpark that had seen few such moments this season and ushering Hamels off the mound on a high note after a dominant eight-inning performance.  

In the Nationals’ best opportunity to make a game of things, they had the bases loaded, one out and their No.’s 4 and 5 hitters up. They couldn’t get a single run home. Before Werth’s fly out, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman struck out on three pitches.

For some reason or another we get ‘em in a jam, we don’t get the hit,” said Nationals manager Davey Johnson, who has run out of explanations for his feast-or-famine offense on multiple occasions already this season. “We got him tired there at the end and had the right guys up, we just didn’t get the job done. 

“If I could figure out (why that happens) I’d make a whole bunch of money. This is a good-hitting ballpark. You’ve got to want to go up there and swing the bat here. Anywhere you hit it it’s got a chance to go. But we didn’t get nothing going.”

Two days after finishing a homestand in which they averaged over six runs per game, the Nationals have scored four runs total in their first two games of this four-game series. 

Two days after trimming the Atlanta Braves’ lead in the National League East to its smallest margin (four games) since May 20, their deficit was back to six. 

“(Hamels) was good,” Zimmerman said, his three-pitch strikeout including a borderline first-pitch called strike.

“Sometimes they’re going to win and get you out. I wish it wasn’t that way, but as far as all year, we’ve been inconsistent. That’s just the way it’s been. I wish I had an answer… (As for the eighth inning strikeout), I can’t blame anyone but myself. I had a good pitch to hit.”

Werth homered in the second inning to provide the Nationals and starter Taylor Jordan with their only output until a last-gasp, two-out RBI-double by Wilson Ramos in the ninth altered the final score but not the outcome. He did not make himself available to the media after the game.

And while his at-bat in the eighth, had the result been different, could’ve changed the game, it was not the only moment in which that was the case. 

The Nationals, who quietly questioned home plate umpire Vic Carapazza’s strike zone on a few occasions, put two runners on in the previous inning, too. They didn’t score then, either, as Kurt Suzuki flew out to center to end that threat. 

In between making impressive plays behind rookie Taylor Jordan, who pitched well but got hit a bit harder his second and third time through the Phillies’ order, they also didn’t help him. 

A routine base by Domonic Brown hit turned into a circus when Werth’s throw home to try and nab Chase Utley rolled out of Suzuki’s glove — and then his throw to try to get Brown sneaking into second bounced into center field.

A possible two-on, no-out double play in the sixth became an even bigger jam when Adam LaRoche’s throw to second base hit Jimmy Rollins and skipped into left field, a play in which the Nationals credited Rollins for his instincts.

Still, as the story has so often been, if they hit even a little more perhaps those issues go unnoticed or at least become minimal. But, as the story as so often been, they didn’t hit a lot, so they didn’t hit enough.

“It’s been a frustrating two days,” LaRoche said. “We’ll get into a game and we’ll be in the sixth, seventh inning with two or three hits. Where the night before we had 15 hits. I can’t explain it. It’s one of those things you try to go out and get 15 hits before you get the first one. And nothing good happens.”