When the Washington Nationals took the field Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park after a 1-hour 55-minute rain delay, it had been drizzling all evening, then really started to rain. Should the game -- which was postponed until Thursday, when it will be part of a day-night doubleheader -- even have started?

"Don't get me into that," Nationals Manager Frank Robinson said.

Robinson, however, had reasons to smile, even after the wasted evening. Both of the teams the Nationals are chasing for the playoffs -- the Atlanta Braves, leading the National League East, and the Houston Astros, leading for the wild-card berth -- lost Tuesday night. The Nationals trail the Astros by a half-game for the wild card, and are 41/2 behind the Braves in the division.

"That's what you need," Robinson said. "You need breaks."

The second reason to breathe easier is the Nationals voided a shaky start from right-hander Ryan Drese, who allowed the first three Phillies to hit singles, including an RBI liner up the middle by Chase Utley that put Philadelphia up 1-0. Drese got Bobby Abreu to ground into a fielder's choice just before the game was delayed again. It was called an hour later.

"I still felt we could've won tonight," Drese said.

The Nationals will keep their pitching rotation intact for the rest of the series, throwing Esteban Loaiza on Wednesday night against Philadelphia's Jon Lieber. Tony Armas Jr. will pitch in the early game Thursday, and Drese will get another chance Thursday night, facing Cory Lidle, who started for the Phillies on Tuesday.

The question, then, will be who will pitch the finale of the 13-game road trip. Drese was scheduled for Sunday in New York against the Mets. Now, that will be two days after his latest start.

Wilson Heats Up a Bit

Outfielder Preston Wilson, who had struggled since joining the Nationals on July 13, went 6 for 11 in the past three games, raising his average to .253 with Washington. . . . Twenty-five of Nationals' final 38 games will be at home, the most of any team in contention for the wild card.