The NL East-leading Washington Nationals have cooled off in Philadelphia.
Looking to avoid their longest losing streak in two months, the Nationals try to salvage Wednesday night's series finale against the last-place Phillies.
Washington (75-56) had won 12 of 13 before dropping the first two in this series. Freddy Galvis and Darin Ruf homered and Carlos Ruiz drove in the go-ahead run with an eighth-inning sacrifice fly as Philadelphia won 4-3 on Tuesday.
The Nationals' last three-game skid came June 25-27. Washington, 2-4 in its last six against the Phillies, hasn't been swept by Philadelphia since Aug. 24-26, 2012, at Citizens Bank Park.
The Nationals will try to bounce back behind Doug Fister (12-4, 2.38 ERA), who had yielded two runs or fewer in seven consecutive starts before allowing four in six innings of Friday's 10-3 loss to San Francisco.
"I wasn't sharp. I left too many balls over the plate," the right-hander told MLB's official website. "The whole day, I'm battling myself. It's a constant challenge for me to constantly keep the ball down and on the corners. It's something I have to do. If not, I have to pay for it."
Utley and Howard figure to be back in the lineup after sitting out against left-hander Gio Gonzalez on Tuesday. Howard is 1 for his last 32 with 13 strikeouts versus Washington.
The Phillies (60-72) have won three straight and five of six thanks to a 2.68 ERA. They now turn to Kyle Kendrick (6-11, 4.93), who owns an NL-worst 6.10 ERA since June 22.
The right-hander gave up three of his four runs in the first inning before settling in during Friday's 5-4 victory over St. Louis.
Kendrick, who snapped a four-start winless drought, has a 9.69 ERA in the first inning. Opponents are hitting .303 against him the first time through the lineup compared to .267 the rest of the way.
"It's not in my head at all; it's really not. I don't know. It's one of those things this year," he said. "You just have to battle. I'm a competitor. I don't want to lose, so I just had to keep battling. That's all you can do. Keep making pitches, keep grinding and try to keep your team in the game."
Kendrick is 5-10 with a 5.00 ERA against the Nationals, his most losses versus any team. He's posted an 8.02 ERA in losing his last four matchups.
Ian Desmond is 15 for 39 with five extra-base hits when facing Kendrick and Wilson Ramos is 6 for 11 with two homers.
Nationals leadoff man Denard Span is batting .200 in 16 games at Citizens Bank Park since the start of last year after going 0 for 8 in the last two. He's 5 for 23 against Kendrick.