WASHINGTON - The Yankees arrived here Sunday night in desperate need of what Monday offered: An off day to rest after a stretch of 17 straight games and 30 games in 31 days.

They left late Wednesday night with Thursday offering a chance to do something just as desperately needed: regroup.

A tailspin that shows little signs of slowing continued with a 3-2 loss to the Nationals in front of 37,648 at Nationals Park, an ignominious end to a lousy trip.

The Bombers (22-19) concluded the three-city, nine-game trip 2-7. They've lost seven of their last eight games and eight of their last 11.

"Definitely a long, tough road trip," said Alex Rodriguez who, as a pinch hitter, was called out on strikes on a questionable pitch with a runner on first to end the game. "I'm excited to get back to the Stadium on Friday and hopefully we can get on a roll."

Chase Headley, whose throwing error in the seventh led to an unearned run that gave the Nationals a 3-2 lead, and made a loser out of Adam Warren (2-3, 4.26), came up with runners at first and second and two outs in the eighth against lefty Matt Grace, but grounded to short to end the inning.

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Drew Storen (12 saves) allowed a two-out single to Didi Gregorius but struck out A-Rod with an inside 0-and-2 fastball that only plate umpire Marvin Hudson thought was a strike.

"I didn't think that was a strike but I'm not the ump," Rodriguez said. Said Joe Girardi: "I think it's inside . . . but we had 26 other outs to do something."

The Yankees, who scored twice in the first inning against Jordan Zimmermann (4-2, 3.52) but no more thereafter, did not, the offense looking very much like the unit that, before Tuesday's six-run outburst in a loss, had produced a combined 11 runs in its previous six games.

"It wasn't a great road trip for sure," Brian McCann said.

The Yankees were unable to capitalize on the third-inning break given to them when one of the game's hottest hitters, Bryce Harper -- 10 homers in his previous 12 games -- was ejected by Hudson for arguing a first-pitch strike. Nationals manager Matt Williams was tossed as well.

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Warren, though he pitched well at points, squandered the 2-0 first-inning lead.

The Nationals (24-17), who have won 17 of 21, got a first-inning homer from Ian Desmond and a fourth-inning shot from Tyler Moore.

Wilson Ramos reached to start the seventh when Headley got caught between hops on a ground shot, the third baseman's team-worst ninth error.

"I tried to smother it and unfortunately I wasn't able do it," Headley said. "It's been a strange start for me defensively but all I can do is improve."

Warren followed by walking Moore. Danny Espinosa squared to bunt and pushed a soft liner in foul ground toward third. Headley, playing in, laid out horizontally and made a terrific catch for the first out. Dan Uggla pinch hit for Zimmermann and fell behind 0-and-2, but came back to work a walk, loading the bases.

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Girardi called on lefthander Justin Wilson to face the Nationals' lefthanded hitting leadoff man, Denard Span, who bounced a 2-and-1 fastball past a diving Gregorius for an RBI single that made it 3-2.

"We just have to stay positive," Warren said of the team's skid. "Take this day off and just really have a reset mentally and try to come out and win some ballgames."

Notes and quotes: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (right forearm strain/right wrist tendinitis) played catch here several hours before the game, then headed to Scranton where he will make his first rehab start in Triple-A. "Of course I'm nervous," managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said during the owners' meetings. "If you're a Yankee fan, you'd be nervous too. But the bottom line is he feels great." . . . As expected, Derek Jeter plans to attend Sunday's pregame ceremonies when Bernie Williams has his No. 51 retired and is given a plaque in Monument Park.

With David Lennon

in New York

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