Momentum quickly ends again for Phillies

Phillies catcher Wil Nieves. (Alex Brandon/AP)

WASHINGTON -- The inability to sustain any momentum was evident this weekend for the Phillies in their series split with the Washington Nationals. Based on their 49-63 record, it’s been a season-long problem with no signs of turning around.

The Phillies overcame the adversity of losing Cliff Lee after 2 2/3 innings to win the opener 10-4 on Thursday and then received a standout effort from Roberto Hernandez, who allowed one unearned run over eight innings in Friday’s 2-1 win.

One could tell the Phillies were beginning to feel good about themselves. They had gone 6-3 in their last nine games and the Nationals appeared back on their heels.

Then came Saturday’s 11-0 debacle in which A.J. Burnett got tossed, but not before allowing five runs (although just one earned) in 1 2/3 innings.

On Sunday, the Phillies wasted another masterful performance from Cole Hamels who allowed one unearned run in seven innings during a 4-0 loss.

The Phillies haven’t scored in 21 consecutive innings. During this span, they are 10-for-72 (.138).

Granted, they faced two quality pitchers in Jordan Zimmermann on Saturday and Stephen Strasburg on Sunday, but beating good pitching is all part of the game.

As recently as July 11, Burnett and the Phillies beat Zimmermann, 6-2. The Phillies scored four earned runs in 3 1/3 innings against Zimmermann before he left that game with a biceps cramp.

Strasburg has been a different story. In four starts this year against the Phillies he has a 1.33 ERA.

After Sunday’s loss, manager Ryne Sandberg asked if the last results of the last two games was because of great Nationals pitching or subpar Phillies hitting.

“Strasburg was pretty good today and Zimmermann, we fell behind and he had the combination of having the lead and pitching, so the last two games were two different scenarios for me,” Sandberg said. “But Strasburg, he was down in the zone, he mixed his pitches well and he is a tough guy to handle.”

Different scenarios, but the same result.

No doubt, Strasburg was dealing, but he’s not impossible to handle. Six times this season he has allowed four or more earned runs.

Now the Phillies are back where they started before Thursday – 12.5 games behind the first-place Nationals in the National League East.

A series that started with so much promise has ended like so many during this season that still has 50 long games left to play.