Jeremy Hellickson was throwing freely and effectively. The Phillies righthander needed just 79 pitches to get through seven innings Monday night, with the Phillies leading, 2-1.
But his night was finished and as it turns out, so was his team.
Hector Neris, who entered the game having been unscored upon in his previous 92/3 innings, lasted only two-thirds of an inning. Neris allowed three runs as the Washington Nationals beat the Phillies, 4-3, before 21,993 at Citizens Bank Park.
It was the fourth consecutive loss for the Phillies (26-25) and their sixth in the last seven games.
This is not how they wanted to start their 10-game homestand.
"Obviously I would have loved a chance to finish that game," Hellickson said. "I felt like it was my game to win or lose, but at the same time you don't really question bringing in Hector in that situation. He has been probably the best eighth-inning man in the game."
Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said he thought about leaving Hellickson in.
"We had such a good combination of Neris and [Jeanmar] Gomez and thought it was good to go with the combination that was working so well for us," Mackanin said.
Washington second baseman Daniel Murphy treated the Phillies the way he has the rest of the Nationals' opponents.
Murphy went 3 for 4 with a double, a home run and three RBIs, improving his average to .395.
The Phillies used small ball to score the game's first run in the second inning. Cesar Hernandez was issued a one-out walk and then stole second and reached third on a wild pitch before scoring on Hellickson's squeeze bunt.
Murphy tied the score in the fourth with a home run to right-center, his eighth of the season.
The Phillies took a 2-1 lead when Freddy Galvis led off the sixth inning with a home run. Galvis hit Tanner Roark's 1-2 slider for his fifth home run of the season, just two shy of his career high.
After Washington's Bryce Harper was hit by a pitch on the right knee to lead off the seventh, Phillies leftfielder Tyler Goeddel made the defensive play of the game, running to his left to catch Murphy's line drive and then doubling Harper off first base, throwing to Ryan Howard on the fly.
The Nationals appealed the play, but the call on the field was upheld.
Harper, who was in considerable pain when he was hit by the pitch, would have been safe had he slid, and that cost the Nationals when Ryan Zimmerman followed with a triple.
Hellickson got out of the inning by getting Anthony Rendon to ground out to third. That ended Hellickson's night. He recorded eight strikeouts and no walks.
Harper was replaced in right field in the bottom of the seventh by Chris Heisey.
In the eighth inning, Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco made a leaping grab of a liner by pinch-hitter Clint Robinson and appeared to hurt himself. The medical staff came out to attend to Franco, who grabbed his left shoulder, but he stayed in the game.
After the game, Franco said he was all right. Asked if he extended his shoulder too much, he said, "That is probably what happened."
Neris had trouble finding the strike zone, allowing two hits and three walks in the eighth.
Washington tied the score, 2-2, on former Phillie Jayson Werth's two-out RBI single. That ended a streak of 111/3 scoreless innings by Phillies relievers. Neris walked Heisey to load the bases.
Murphy then continued his demolition of the Phillies by hitting a two-run single to right to break the tie.
"It was a bad night," said Neris, who had trouble commanding his splitter. "I know I am better than that."
Nationals closer and former Phillie Jonathan Papelbon, not a popular player in these parts, made things interesting in the ninth.
The Phillies made it 4-3 on consecutive doubles by Franco and Howard to open the ninth. Pinch-hitter Tommy Joseph and Hernandez struck out and Goeddel lined to second to end the game.