By Gene Wang
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 22, 2010; 8:24 PM
PHILADELPHIA - Less than one day after Washington Nationals franchise pitcher Stephen Strasburg departed his outing unexpectedly with an injury to his right forearm, veteran Scott Olsen took his turn on the mound against reigning National League champion Philadelphia in the rubber match of this three-game series at Citizens Bank Park.
Olsen mostly held up his end of the deal, at least in the early going. Problem was, his teammates weren't able to crack Phillies starter Roy Oswalt, who joined the club in late July as another ace in a rotation that already featured Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels.
The resulting 6-0 rain-delayed loss before an announced 44,539 on Sunday afternoon prevented the Nationals from winning for the third time in four games. They instead head back to the nation's capital losers of both series during this two-city road trip.
They failed to gain their first road series win since May 12 and stumbled to 4-10 since Aug. 7. The team can only hope its travails are not compounded with another dose of bad news following an MRI exam Strasburg was scheduled to undergo on Sunday in the District.
The rookie phenom was forced from Saturday's game with one out in the fifth inning after throwing a 1-1 changeup to Domonic Brown. As soon as Strasburg delivered the pitch, he grimaced and shook his right hand several times. That prompted a visit to the mound from, among others, Manager Jim Riggleman and pitching coach Steve McCatty.
While Strasburg tried to convince his coaches to allow him to remain in the game, Riggleman, as he has done all season, was not about to be reckless with the health of his hard-throwing right-hander. That meant Strasburg's night was over after yielding one run and two hits over 4 1/3 innings in addition to six strikeouts and no walks.
Olsen (3-6) wasn't nearly that efficient, but he did have the makings of one of his better outings of the month- he had yielded five earned runs or more in two of three previous starts in August - through five innings. During that time, he yielded two runs on six hits with three strikeouts.
Then came Olsen's undoing in the sixth, when the Phillies (70-53) scored twice on Wilson Valdez's bases-loaded single for a 4-0 lead. Philadelphia had loaded the bases when Olsen intentionally walked No. 7 hitter Carlos Ruiz to get to Valdez, who entered hitting .176 for his career against Washington.
Oswalt, meantime, didn't require that much support and aided his cause by going 2 for 3 with a run. The three-time all-star confounded the Nationals (53-71) over seven shutout innings, scattering five hits with eight strikeouts and one walk on 106 pitches. Ian Desmond, Adam Dunn and Michael Morse each fanned twice against Oswalt, who never encountered more than one batter over the minimum in an inning.
"Scott did a good job," Riggleman said. "The story of the ballgame was we just couldn't get anything going against Oswalt."
After Oswalt (9-13) got Wil Nieves to ground into an inning-ending double play in the seventh, heavy rain began to fall, forcing a stoppage in play at 3:51 p.m. and sending many spectators scurrying for cover in the concourse. Play resumed 1 hour 44 minutes later, with Jimmy Rollins promptly singling to right field off Craig Stammen, a converted reliever who joined the bullpen this month after 19 starts.
Raul Ibanez followed with a shot to deep left field that cleared the wall, and the Phillies were comfortably on their way to staying atop the wild-card chase and within two and a half games of Atlanta for the NL East lead.
Oswalt's mastery over Washington, which was 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position, marked the second time in the series the Nationals failed to score against one of Philadelphia's front-line starters. On Friday night, Halladay also pitched seven shutout innings, allowing eight hits and striking out five in a 1-0 victory. Washington did manage to hit Kyle Kendrick hard on Saturday, but that 8-1 triumph was tempered by Strasburg's untimely departure in what almost certainly would have been his sixth victory.
"When you come in here, you've got to figure you're going to see a good rotation," Riggleman said. "We've just got to be ready to go try and bang out a few runs, and if you're only able to get one or two, then you've still got to find a way to win, and we just haven't been doing that often enough."