GAME IN A NUTSHELL: This game already wasn't going particularly well for the Nationals when things really turned sour in the bottom of the fourth, for reasons having nothing to do with the scoreboard. Jordan Zimmermann took himself out of the game after throwing a 1-2 slider to Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp, departing with an apparent injury, the extent of which won't be made public until after the game.
With their lone All-Star in the trainer's room, the Nationals faced a daunting task, trying to rally from four runs down against Phillies veteran A.J. Burnett. Despite some early scoring opportunities, they couldn't make a dent in the right-hander until the slumping Bryce Harper belted a solo homer in the top of the seventh. Ryan Zimmerman added an RBI double in the eighth, but it was too little, too late.
So the Nationals dropped their second straight and missed an opportunity to retake sole possession of first place in the NL East after the Braves were walked-off by the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Now they wait to find out the extent of the injury to the man who arguably has assumed the ace role on their pitching staff.
HITTING HIGHLIGHT: There was one small bit of good news in this game: Harper homered in the top of the seventh, his first since pre-thumb injury in April and perhaps the big blow that will snap him out of his slump. Harper had been just 4-for-33 since coming off the DL, and had looked a bit antsy at the plate in his first two plate appearances, grounding out on the first pitch each time. But he crushed a 1-0 pitch from Burnett over the right-field fence, his first homer in three months and only his second of the season. The bad news: Harper saw a total of only five pitches in four at-bats tonight, on three occasions making an out on the first pitch he saw in a plate appearance.
PITCHING LOWLIGHT: Obviously, it was Zimmermann's final pitch of the night, a 1-2 slider to Cameron Rupp that came in below the strike zone and then prompted the right-hander to wiggle his fingers, motion to the dugout with his glove and then touch his left side. Talk about the last thing the Nationals wanted to see happen, especially to their lone All-Star, only two days before he's scheduled to fly to Minnesota for the Midsummer Classic. The severity of the injury wasn't immediately known — the Nationals' policy is not to reveal injury information until postgame — but the Nationals can only hope this isn't something especially serious. Even if it's not, it's hard to imagine Zimmermann will be cleared to pitch Tuesday night at Target Field.
[RELATED: Jordan Zimmermann departs with apparent arm injury]
KEY STAT: Jordan Zimmermann has made 116 starts without going on the DL since returning from Tommy John surgery in 2010.
UP NEXT: The series continues Saturday night when Stephen Strasburg faces Cole Hamels in a star-studded matchup. First pitch is at 7:15 p.m. on Fox.