- Associated Press - Thursday, June 5, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) - A.J. Burnett walked four batters. Three of them scored, including the opposing starting pitcher.

No wonder he was upset.

Already tied for the majors lead in free passes entering the game, Burnett’s control failed him again Wednesday night as the Philadelphia Phillies dropped their fifth straight, falling 8-4 to the Washington Nationals in a rain-interrupted game.

Burnett (3-5) issued back-to-back walks in Washington’s four-run fourth inning and a walk to pitcher Stephen Strasburg in the three-run sixth.

“They’re unaggressive walks. I don’t care if there’s a base open. That’s not me,” Burnett said. “That’s putting me in passive mode. That’s my fault. I’ve got to go after hitters. I don’t care if a base is open. I don’t care who’s up. I mean, that’s not who I am. I’ll take six aggressive walks over boo-boo walks that are 3-0 sliders, 3-0 curveballs or whatever it is.”

Burnett allowed eight runs over six innings. Besides the walks, he was particularly bothered by the home run he gave up to Anthony Rendon in the fifth inning immediately after the Phillies had cut a 4-0 lead to 4-2.

“For somebody who harps on shutdown innings, I’m pretty (bad) at it,” he said. “And I will be better. Guys throws up runs, you need to put up zeroes after that.”

The Phillies are an NL-worst 9-19 since May 4, and they’ve hit a buzz saw in the nation’s capital. They were shut out over eight innings by Jordan Zimmermann on Tuesday and struck out 13 times Wednesday, including 11 times against Strasburg.

Strasburg (5-4) hit double digits in Ks for the 15th time in his career - and for the fourth time without issuing a walk. Ten of the 11 strikeouts were swinging, including Marlon Byrd (95 mph fastball), Ryan Howard (95 mph fastball) and Domonic Brown (88 mph change-up) when the rain started to fall in the sixth inning.

The only consolation for the Phillies is that they scored an earned run for the first time in four games when facing the Nationals’ ace. The streak reached 25 innings before Philadelphia crossed the plate twice in the fifth - once earned, once unearned. John Mayberry Jr. added a two-run pinch-hit homer in the seventh, but by then Strasburg had been working with a cushion of a half-dozen runs.

The tarp came out shortly afterward, delaying the game for 1 hour, 48 minutes.

Rendon finished with three hits and three RBIs. Danny Espinosa had a two-run double that was a foot or so away from a grand slam, and Strasburg himself added a single, walk and run scored for the Nationals, who have won four of five and are above .500 for the first time in two weeks.

The Phillies would love to be anywhere close to that.

“Sun is going to come up, believe or not,” Burnett said. “It might be a little cloudy.”

NOTES: It was Burnett’s first loss against the Expos-Nationals franchise since April 8, 2002, when his Florida Marlins fell 10-2 to Montreal. He had been 5-0 in nine starts and one relief appearance against the franchise since then. … Phillies leadoff hitter Jimmy Rollins had the first four-strikeout game of his 15-year career. … Mayberry has three pinch-hit homers this season. … X-rays taken Wednesday on Darin Ruf were negative a day after the Phillies outfielder collided with a concrete wall during a game with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Ruf has a sprained left wrist and a cut on his right knee that required stitches, but he has no broken bones. He is on the seven-day disabled list.

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