WASHINGTON -- The longest of nights produced the most painful of losses for the Philadelphia Phillies and dozens of their die-hard fans.
The Phillies waited out a rain delay of nearly 4½ hours at the start, then dropped a 3-1 decision to the Washington Nationals that left Philadelphia two games back in the NL wild-card race with only three games to play.
While the Phillies were losing at Washington for the second time in three games, the Los Angeles Dodgers beat Colorado 19-11 Thursday for their fourth straight win.
"I've seen stranger things. ... Our heart's still beating, but it's getting there," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.
His club finishes with three games in Florida.
"Anything can happen. We've just got to keep going out and playing," said Pat Burrell, robbed of a homer by center fielder Nook Logan's leaping catch. "Florida's a good team, but we've got to dig down deep. It's that time."
Still, the Phillies must be downright exhausted. Their series finale at Washington ended at 2:07 a.m. And that well-past-midnight madness came a day after the teams played a 14-inning game that lasted 4 hours, 53 minutes, before the Phillies won 8-7.
"It's good to go out and ruin their season," said Ryan Church, who homered in the second inning off Jon Lieber (9-11), right at midnight. "Now they've got to get on a plane, take a two-hour flight, then strap it on against a good Florida team tomorrow."
Church paused, then corrected himself: "Today, actually."
The Phillies created chances, putting the leadoff man on in both the seventh and eighth innings. But both times, the next batter hit into a double play.
It was necessary to get the game in, because the result was significant to the playoff chase.
"That's just the way it should be and the way it is," said Nationals manager Frank Robinson, who on Thursday met with general manager Jim Bowden and team president Stan Kasten about his future.
Here's how lengthy the delay was: A cleaning crew moved through the empty upper deck, picking up trash, more than a half-hour before the first pitch was thrown at 11:32 p.m. When the tarp was finally removed from the field, the hundreds of spectators remaining charged into the first few rows for a close look.
Robinson called playing in front of so few fans in a 45,000-seat stadium "kind of eerie."
Many stood for much of the game, and one group took off their shirts even with the temperature in the 50s. It was quite a gathering, from the spectator in the second row sporting a giant sombrero, to the gentleman standing right beside the Nationals dugout and donning a red-plumed Trojan helmet.
Because there were so few people there, fans really had a chance to be heard. Instead of the usual mishmash of crowd noise that all blurs together as tens of thousands of voices, sounding something like TV static, just about every single chant was discernible. And mostly from Phillies fans, who took advantage of the chance to give Nationals players an earful.
They were "calling you everything but your first name," Church said. "I just had to bite my lip."
"Let's go, Phillies!" was the most popular call from the considerable contingent of visitors, but there also were choruses of "Harry Kallas!" directed toward the announcer, and "M-V-P!" cries whenever Ryan Howard -- he of the 58 homers and 146 RBI, along with six strikeouts in this series -- stepped to the plate. They jeered mound visits and pickoff attempts by the Nationals. At one point, the Nationals' mascot, an eagle named Screech, wandered into a group of Phillies fans, who taunted him, "You're no Phanatic!" And this might have capped it: Boos were showered on the person wearing the oversized Thomas Jefferson suit who fell during the fourth-inning Presidents Race.
The Nationals fans had a chance to serenade rookie Ryan Zimmerman with "Happy Birthday": He turned 22 Thursday.
"It was kind of like playing in college again," said Zimmerman, just a year removed from the University of Virginia. "It was fun, actually."
The Phillies might not feel that way.
- Nationals LF Alfonso Soriano was scratched from the lineup about 45 minutes before the start.
- Church's ninth homer matched his career high.
- Lieber allowed three runs on seven hits in 5 1/3 innings.
- O'Connor went five innings, allowing one unearned run on three hits.