Jim Riggleman went out to visit pitcher Jason Marquis in the fourth inning, ostensibly to settle down his struggling pitcher. 

Behind in the count already to Chase Utley, the veteran had already been issued an automatic ball for licking his fingers, but failed to wipe them on his pants, per new MLB rules.  Utley eventually walked.

Marquis then got behind slugger Ryan Howard, and on a 1-2 count hope plate umpire Paul Schreiber called a borderline low pitch a ball, to the chagrin of the pitcher.  Later in the at bat, Howard flared an RBI single to left.

At that point, instead of sending batting coach Steve McCatty to settle down Marquis, Riggleman walked slowly to the mound.  After a brief visit, Schreiber came out to break up the meeting.  As the umpire turned to head back toward the plate, Riggleman said the magic word, and Schreiber rung him up, allowing the manager the opportunity to really let the umpire know how he left about his strike zone.

Right or wrong, the manager defended his pitcher.

Whether the pitcher deserved the defending is a separate story.

Marquis, for the second start this season, did not pitch like the playoff-seasoned, innings-eating veteran the Nats acquired him to be.  Instead, when the strike zone started to shrink, he did not adjust and got hammered, turning what once was a 4-0 lead into a 7-4 loss, before a sold-out, boisterous crowd at Citizen's Bank Park in Philadelphia for the Phillies second opening day.

Instead of being bolstered by his manager's visit, the strike zone got even smaller and Marquis fell apart.

Marquis managed to strike out Shane Victorino to start the fifth, but that would be the last out he would record.  Catcher Carlos Ruiz singled on Marquis' next pitch.  Phils starter Cole Hamels then tired to sacrifice, but the bunt went no further than the edge of home plate.

Catcher Ivan Rodriguez pounced on the ball, but made an ill-advised throw to second to try for the lead runner instead of taking the sure out at first.  He wound up throwing the ball behind shortstop Ian Desmond and into center field for an error.

After the game, Rodriguez blamed a sore back for the poor throw, but defended his decision to reporters.  Regardless, the outcome only hindered the effort.

Little-used infielder Juan Castro, subbing for Jimmy Rollins at short (who had been a late scratch due to a calf injury in pre-game warm-ups), doubled to the right-center gap, scoring Ruiz.  Placido Polanco, who hit a grand slam on Opening Day agaisnt the Nats, singled cleanly to center for two more RBIs.

Then Chase Utley put the nail in the coffin, homering to right field to end Marquis' day.

The final numbers:  4.1 IP, 6 ER, 7 H, 2 BB and 1 K.  This despite facing the minimum number of batters in the first three innings.  Marquis, the Nats big off-season acquisition, now has a 12.96 ERA in 2010.

There was plenty of complaining about the umpiring.  From Riggleman.  From the television announcers.  From the internet.

But the only man that could control any of it, Jason Marquis, could do nothing about it.  He didn't--or wouldn't--adjust, and paid dearly for it.

Adding to the frustration is that Marquis was cruising through three innings and the Nats got to Hamels for four runs early.

Josh Willingham hit his second home run of the season in the second inning, and the Nats put three more up in the fourth, on Rodriguez' RBI single and Marquis' two-run double.

Tough to squander a lead when your pitcher supplies the power.

The Nats fall to 3-4 with the loss.  They have an off-day Tuesday, and face the Phillies again at 7:05 pm Wednesday, as Craig Stammen faces Kyle Kendrick.

NATS NOTES:  Ryan Zimmerman missed his second game with a tight hamstring.  The Nats hope he can return Wednesday.

Nyjer Morgan went 0-for-5 and is hitting .172 through the team's first seven games.

The bullpen, consisting of Jesse English, Tyler Walker, Sean Burnett, and Miguel Batista, pitched three and two-third scoreless innings, giving up just two hits and one walk.