PHILADELPHIA -- Hours before taking the mound on Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park, Nationals left-hander Giovany Gonzalez sat silently and stared into his locker, still wearing street clothes with a pair of headphones on, not yet bothering to change into his uniform as the rest of the team prepared for batting practice.
This month has been a forgettable one for Gonzalez, adding to what has been a disappointing season for him and the Nats.
There is a chance the 8-6 loss in the series finale against the Phillies could be the final start in Gonzalez's seven-year tenure with Washington. He is a pending free agent and has passed through waivers, meaning he could potentially be dealt by Friday's deadline to be eligible for postseason play.
"I'm still here wearing a Nationals uniform," Gonzalez said after the game. "Until then, there's nothing much I can say. I'm still wearing Nationals gear."
Gonzalez's outing, however, did little to inspire confidence in potential suitors. He handed back a 5-2 advantage -- built on two-run home runs from Trea Turner and Juan Soto, along with a solo homer from Anthony Rendon -- by serving up a grand slam to Carlos Santana in the fifth.
"I wish it was a better pitch," said Gonzalez, who was tagged for six runs in five innings. "For me, it's just kind of a step backwards for me when you go out there and you're pushing forward, pushing forward, and the team gives you that much run support, and all of a sudden, it's just one pitch."
Gonzalez was lifted for pinch-hitter Andrew Stevenson in the sixth inning and Stevenson tied the game with a run-scoring single. However, the Nats tried to extend reliever Jimmy Cordero to complete two innings, and on his 42nd pitch of the night, he gave up a go-ahead RBI single to Jose Bautista in the seventh. Rhys Hoskins provided an insurance run with an RBI double in the eighth.
The loss snapped Washington's three-game winning streak, spoiled a chance to sweep its reeling National League East rivals and dropped the Nats to .500 at 67-67.
"We're playing better baseball right now. It's encouraging," catcher Matt Wieters said. "If we just keep playing better baseball, we'll see where we are at the end. The only thing you can control is your effort level and what kind of baseball you play."
Gonzalez's potential departure could spell the end of an era, as he has been one of the biggest, and perhaps underrated, contributors to the Nationals' run of four NL East titles in six seasons. He arrived in 2012 and started the first postseason game in franchise history, placing him alongside Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg and Ryan Zimmerman as the only players who have been a part of the club since its first playoff run in '12.
With contending teams looking for starting-pitching depth headed into the playoffs, speculation has swirled that Gonzalez could be the next player dealt by the Nats, despite the 7.47 ERA he owns this month and the way he has struggled for most of this season.
"He's been really good over the past years," manager Dave Martinez said. "He's a good pitcher. I got a lot of confidence in him."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
The Phillies emptied their bullpen to thwart a Nationals threat in the eighth. Pat Neshek gave up a leadoff single to Wilmer Difo and Luis Avilan issued a walk to pinch-hitter Harper, causing manager Gabe Kapler to turn to Tommy Hunter with only one reliever remaining in his 'pen. Hunter responded by retiring Mark Reynolds on a flyout and inducing Adam Eaton to bounce into an inning-ending double play.
Soto hit his 16th home run of the season, tying him with Ken Griffey Jr. for the fourth-most homers by a teenager in Major League history. More >
Wieters exited in the bottom of the eighth after his back locked up on him earlier in the game. He began feeling discomfort around the fourth or fifth inning and eventually it became too much to continue playing. But after getting his hips worked on by the team's training staff, Wieters believes he will be ready to play in Friday's series opener with the Brewers.
"Feel better now and should be fine by Friday," he said. "Just got to the point where I felt I wasn't able to help the team to my full ability."
Following an off-day on Thursday, right-hander Tanner Roark (8-13, 3.95 ERA) will start as the Nationals open a three-game series against the Brewers at 7:05 p.m. ET on Friday at Nationals Park. Roark will try to close out his best month of the year after posting a 2.12 ERA in five starts in August. Harper (illness) could return to the starting lineup on Wednesday.