WASHINGTON -- Charlie Manuel was angry. It didn't matter that the Philadelphia Phillies nearly pulled off an impressive ninth-inning comeback. No, his club had again lost to a team he felt they should have beaten.
The Phillies lost to the woeful Washington Nationals 8-7 on Thursday night when Ryan Howard hit into a game-ending double play with runners on the corners after Philadelphia scored five runs in the ninth.
Manuel didn't want to take about the comeback. The manager wanted to vent.
"We've been getting outplayed by second division teams," Manuel said. "We don't put nobody away."
It hasn't been a good time on the road for the defending world champions. In their last three road series, the Phillies lost two of three in Pittsburgh and absorbed a four-game sweep in Houston. After the Astros' sweep, Manuel chewed out his team. After winning the first two against a team that's lost 92 games, Manuel thought his team's play was unacceptable.
"The guys who've been on this team the last couple of years -- they know exactly what they've got to do," Manuel said. "We've got to have a little more get up and go to us."
Philadelphia's lead in the NL East was cut to five games over Florida, which routed the New York Mets 13-4. The Phillies had won nine straight against Washington.
"We're the best team in this division," Manuel said. "Nobody's going to give us nothing."
Adam Dunn hit his 36th homer for the Nationals, who nearly blew the game in the ninth. Matt Stairs snapped an 0-for-30 skid with a pinch-hit grand slam and Shane Victorino doubled in a run in the Phillies' rally.
The last-place Nationals won for only the second time in 12 games overall.
"We're better than they are," Manuel said. "We've got to get after them more -- like we used to."
Victorino denied that his team was complacent, which Manuel implied. He did say the Phillies are making it harder on themselves.
"We're letting these teams have confidence," Victorino said. "We're not putting teams away like we should. We're not dictating what's happening in the game."
Desmond, a 24-year-old shortstop who was recalled from Triple-A Syracuse on Tuesday, doubled in a run in the fourth and his three-run homer keyed a five-run fifth. He narrowly missed a home run in his first at-bat, flying out to deep center field.
Hernandez (8-10), signed by the Nationals on Aug. 25 after he was released by the Mets, improved to 1-5 with a 6.36 ERA in his last eight starts. He allowed two runs and six hits in 7 1/3 innings.
Dunn and Desmond connected in the fifth. Desmond sprinted around the bases so quickly that he nearly caught Elijah Dukes, who had been on first. Desmond had to be coaxed by his teammates into a halfhearted curtain call.
"I've never had anything like that happen before, you know? I didn't know if they were being serious or not, so I didn't want to look like a dummy," Desmond said. "[Coach Tim] Foli told me to step up on the first step. The other guys were saying, 'They want you, they want you."'
Blanton gave up eight runs and seven hits in 4 2/3 innings, ending his streak of 11 straight quality starts.
Stairs connected in the ninth off rookie Zack Segovia to make it 8-6, ending the longest hitless stretch of his career. It was Stairs' 19th pinch-hit homer and 12th career slam.
Struggling Phillies closer Brad Lidge pitched a scoreless eighth with two strikeouts.
- Philadelphia LHP Scott Eyre had an MRI on his ailing left elbow that revealed a "loose body." The Phillies have shut him down for several days while they consider methods of treatment.
- Philadelphia shortstop Jimmy Rollins made two errors. He had gone 87 games without an error and has made five this season.
- Washington claimed LHP Jesse English off waivers from San Francisco.