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Nats' lineup scuffles behind Roark's solid start

MLB.com @JamalCollier

WASHINGTON -- Even on a day where the Nationals received a boost with third baseman Anthony Rendon returning from the disabled list, their lineup was still undermanned for Saturday's 3-1 loss to the Phillies.

Neither shortstop Trea Turner or center fielder Michael A. Taylor were in the starting lineup due to partial off-days in order to give them a rest (although both appeared later in the game). Ryan Zimmerman was a late scratch after arriving with stiffness in his side. Without them the Nats managed just one run on two hits, wasting a strong outing from right-hander Tanner Roark and snapping their season-high six-game winning streak.

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WASHINGTON -- Even on a day where the Nationals received a boost with third baseman Anthony Rendon returning from the disabled list, their lineup was still undermanned for Saturday's 3-1 loss to the Phillies.

Neither shortstop Trea Turner or center fielder Michael A. Taylor were in the starting lineup due to partial off-days in order to give them a rest (although both appeared later in the game). Ryan Zimmerman was a late scratch after arriving with stiffness in his side. Without them the Nats managed just one run on two hits, wasting a strong outing from right-hander Tanner Roark and snapping their season-high six-game winning streak.

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The Nationals could not muster a hit against Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez through the first four innings until Wilmer Difo lined a solo home run into the Nationals' bullpen with one out in the fifth inning. But the Nats' red-hot offense ran cold as they were handed their first loss in a week.

Video: PHI@WSH: Difo homers into the right field seats

"[Velasquez] was tough. He pitched really well," manager Dave Martinez said. "He elevated his fastball, threw breaking balls, kept us off balance. He was really good today."

Roark surrendered a two-run home run to Rhys Hoskins in the first inning and another run in the sixth after Carlos Santana tripled and scored on a single from Maikel Franco. Aside from those blemishes, Roark picked up the slack for a shorthanded bullpen and pitched into the seventh inning, tossing 6 1/3 innings of three-run ball with nine strikeouts on 115 pitches.

Video: PHI@WSH: Hoskins crushes a two-run homer in the 1st

"I felt good," Roark said. "Still felt good when I came out of the game. The bullpen needed a little day today after yesterday, so tried my best to do my best and go out there and give it all I've got."

A loss like Saturday's, where their offense sputtered and they lost a close game, had become somewhat routine for the Nationals before this week. But Washington entered this game winners of six straight. A live eight-piece mariachi band provided background music in the clubhouse and during batting practice to help celebrate Cinco De Mayo. They got one of their best hitters back in Rendon, who drew a pair of walks in his first game back in three weeks.

Video: PHI@WSH: Difo makes a leaping catch to rob Franco

Even despite the loss, these Nationals appear to be a much looser team than they were a week ago. And one capable of turning the page on this loss quickly.

"Absolutely. I feel like the team, we had a great series," Difo said through an interpreter. "This series isn't over with yet. We're playing well. I think just in general, it's a great feeling in here. Guys are upbeat about everything. So absolutely, we're feeling a lot better."

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
A leadoff walk to Turner in the ninth inning could have led to a rally for the Nationals, but it was quelled quickly by an unlucky baserunning mistake. Turner appeared to have second base stolen off Phillies closer Hector Neris on the first pitch to catcher Matt Wieters, but Wieters hit a high popup to second base. However, Turner never saw the ball in the air or heard the ball make contact so he slid into second base and unknowingly got doubled off at first base.

Video: PHI@WSH: Florimon dekes Turner to turn DP in the 9th

"Usually I hear the ball off the bat, so a lot of times if I hear it I'll look up," Turner said. "I didn't hear it that time. I knew [shortstop] Pedro Florimon didn't have the ball, I just figured it was like a passed ball or something, that he was trying to get me to stay at second base. So by the time I realized, I looked up and saw Matt Wieters running down the first base line. It kind of confused me. It happens. If I hear it, I think I look up and run back and everything is fine. I happened to not hear it."

SOUND SMART
Difo extended his hit streak to eight games, where he is batting .545 (12-for-22) with two doubles, two home runs, four RBIs, six walks and eight runs.

"I haven't changed anything at all," he said. "I still do my early work, my cage work, but I think I've been more selective with my pitch selection, and that's helped me."

UP NEXT
A fantastic pitching matchup will highlight Sunday's series finale between the Nationals and Phillies when Max Scherzer faces off against Jake Arrieta at 1:35 p.m. ET. Scherzer was named the National League Pitcher of the Month for his fantastic April, and he enters this game with a 1.79 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 45 1/3 innings.

Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Washington Nationals