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.

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.

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.

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