Ian Desmond, Caleb Joseph

Washington Nationals’ Ian Desmond rounds toward the dugout after crossing home plate in front of Baltimore Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph after hitting a solo home run in the fourth inning of an interleague baseball game, Wednesday, July 9, 2014, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

The Washington Nationals won just two of five games during the week of July 7 to July 12, but managed to cling to a tie for first place in the National League East with the Atlanta Braves. Washington lost the “Battle of the Beltway” series against the Baltimore Orioles, falling in two of three games, and then split the first two of a three-game road series against the Philadelphia Phillies. The Nationals sit on a 50-42 record, tied with the Atlanta Braves for first place in the division as of July 12.

July 7-10: Nationals Fall in Beltway Battle with Orioles

Washington lost to the Orioles, 8-2 in Game One of a scheduled four game series on July 7. Stephen Strasburg got the start for the Nationals and was solid, dealing nine strikeouts with just four hits and two earned runs in seven innings pitched. But relief pitcher Craig Stammen collapsed in the extra innings, giving up five earned runs in the 11th inning to take the loss.

The scheduled Game Two of the series was rained out on July 8. The Nationals, however,  bounced back to win, 6-2, in Game Three on July 9. Starting pitcher Doug Fister picked up his eighth win, going seven full innings and giving up just two earned runs. Three players went the yard for the Nationals, as catcher Wilson Ramos, shortstop Ian Desmond and right fielder Jayson Werth each hit home runs.

But the Nationals fell back into the losing column inGame Four with a 4-3 loss to the Orioles on July 10. Werth delivered his 10th home run of the season but starter Gio Gonzalez had a rough outing, giving up four earned runs in six innings pitched.

Philadelphia Phillies’ Domonic Brown, front, is tagged out by Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos after trying to score on a RBI-double by Cameron Rupp during the sixth inning of a baseball game, Friday, July 11, 2014, in Philadelphia. Philadelphia won 6-2. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

July 11-12: Washington Splits Two Games with Phillies

The Nationals’ pitching woes continued in Game One against Philadelphia on July 11. Starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann only lasted into the fourth inning after giving up four early runs in a 4-3 loss to the Phillies. Left fielder Bryce Harper hit his second home run of the season, but nothing else clicked offensively for Washington, which had just six hits as a team.

The Nationals got back on track the following night with a 5-3 win over the Phillies in Game Two of the series on July 12. Werth hit his 11th home run of the season and Strasburg had nine strikeouts in six innings of work. Rafael Soriano closed the game to earn his 22nd save.

Next-up: Washington will conclude its series with the Phillies on Sunday, and will host the Milwaukee Brewers in a three-game series following a break for the All-Star Game on July 15.

Perry Green

AFRO Sports Editor