- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 18, 2005

PHILADELPHIA — The Washington Nationals didn’t stay in second place for long.

Two days after the Nationals leapfrogged Philadelphia into second in the National League East, the Phillies returned the favor.

Philadelphia pounded Nationals starter Esteban Loaiza for 10 hits and starter Jon Lieber pitched six solid innings in the Phillies’ 4-3 victory last night before 33,450 at Citizens Bank Park.

The win left the Phillies (64-56) a half-game ahead of the Nationals (63-56) and tied with the Houston Astros for the NL wild card. The Nationals dropped 5 games behind Atlanta in the NL East with the Braves’ 10-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Loaiza (7-9) endured his shortest outing in nearly two months and was hit hard but still managed to keep the Nationals in an important game.

“All my good pitches were going down the middle, my cutter, my sinker, my four-seamer, and they weren’t going in the direction I wanted them to go,” Loaiza said.

Jimmy Rollins and Kenny Lofton inflicted much of the damage for the Phillies. Both went 2-for-4 and scored twice.

In the first inning, Rollins bounced a single over second, then scampered to third when Lofton ripped a single up the middle.

Chase Utley drove in Rollins with a sacrifice fly, and Lofton took second on the throw to the plate. Pat Burrell, who now has 89 RBI on the season, drilled a double into the gap in right to score Lofton for a 2-0 lead.

The third inning began in similar fashion: Rollins led off with a single to right field, and Lofton followed with a double that sent Rollins to third. Bobby Abreu then doubled off the center-field wall to score Rollins and Lofton for a 4-2 lead.

The Nationals had tied the game 2-2 in the top of the inning. Vinny Castilla led off with a solo home run off Lieber (12-10). Cristian Guzman, who entered the game 3-for-20 on this road trip, delivered a double into the right-field corner and came home on Jose Vidro’s single to center field.

Loaiza had been steady all season for the Nationals — he began the night tied for seventh in the NL with 18 quality starts — but lasted just 52/3 innings, his shortest outing since he went five innings June30 against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The 10 hits were the second most he has allowed this season.

“He wasn’t as sharp as he can be. He gave up a lot of hits, but he only put four runs up on the board,” Nationals manager Frank Robinson said. “You can’t say he didn’t have it. He just wasn’t as sharp.”

Loaiza’s numbers could have been worse. He loaded the bases with two outs in the sixth inning, allowing consecutive singles to rookie Ryan Howard, David Bell and Todd Pratt. Robinson then pulled Loaiza in favor of Luis Ayala.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel countered by pinch hitting Jason Michaels for Lieber, but Ayala struck out Michaels to end the threat.

The Nationals reduced the deficit to 4-3 in the seventh inning. Preston Wilson led off with a single to center, then advanced to third when Brian Schneider stroked a ground-rule double over the first-base bag.

Wilson had to hold up at third when a fan reached over the railing and touched the ball.

Castilla, who went 1-for-2 with two RBI, scored Wilson with a towering fly ball to the warning track in right field.

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