Whatever spark the Philadelphia Phillies hoped to get from a pregame team meeting called by manager Ryne Sandberg failed to materialize Tuesday night.
Jordan Zimmermann's mid-90s fastball and debilitating slider didn't help their cause, either.
Zimmermann threw eight shutout innings, and Philadelphia was shutout for the seventh time in 27 games in a 7-0 loss to the Washington Nationals.
"We weren't able to get anything going offensively, got shut down by a good pitcher," Sandberg said. "He kind of set the tone for the game. He had good stuff. He had a fastball working inside to left-handed hitters. He was spotting it good, he was mixing pitches deep in the game. He showed the caliber pitcher that he is."
The loss was the fourth straight and fifth in six games for the Phillies, who are 9-18 since May 4. The slide prompted Sandberg to gather his club some 3½ hours before first pitch, addressing focus and fundamentals.
"It's time right now to do something about it," Sandberg said. "It's about getting the job done, playing better, full games to allow us to have a chance to win the game. When you knock on the door numerous times, the odds are that you'll have a chance to win the game. It's important right now."
Three of Philadelphia's five hits came consecutively by John Mayberry Jr., Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley in the eighth inning, but Marlon Byrd rolled into an inning-ending fielder's choice to the shortstop.
"The ball's not falling our way, but I don't sense any panic," starter David Buchanan said.
Their bullpen spent after three extra-inning games followed by an 11-2 beatdown Monday night, the Phillies let Buchanan (1-2) take one for the team, leaving the rookie in through the sixth, when the Nationals scored three runs off homers by Ian Desmond and Anthony Rendon.
Buchanan allowed seven runs on 10 hits in his third career start.
"Started leaving the ball up, and they started hitting it," Buchanan said. "It kind of got away from me, so I tried to continue to battle. Unfortunately, the ball kind of stayed up in the zone."
Zimmermann (4-2) allowed five hits and struck out four, recovering well from four middling starts that had raised his usually impeccable ERA to 4.07. He got all the support he needed when the Nationals scored three in the third inning.
Ryan Zimmerman, returning after missing 44 games on the disabled list with a broken right thumb, went 2 for 4 with two doubles and an RBI for the Nationals. Of greater interest was his first major league appearance in the outfield after more than 1,100 games as a third baseman, a move necessitated by his throwing problems and the need for a strong hitter to play left field while Bryce Harper recovers from thumb surgery.
Zimmerman handled his two chances with aplomb in his left field debut.
"There's nothing like getting into the first game and getting a couple of balls," Zimmerman said. "And getting a couple of hits helped, too."
NOTES: The Phillies optioned RHP Phillippe Aumont to Triple-A Lehigh Valley and recalled RHP Ethan Martin from Lehigh Valley. ... Philadelphia signed RHP Jason Marquis to a minor league contract. He will report to Class-A Clearwater for extended spring training.