Totally biased Philadelphia Phillies vs. Washington Nationals series preview


Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Phillies will make their final trip of the 2014 season to Washington this weekend as they take on the first place Nationals. Normally, I’d say that the Phillies were in for a long weekend. Except…

The last time they met

The Nationals likely figured that a trip to Philadelphia would be an opportunity for some easy wins. They were wrong.

Aug 26, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Ken Giles (53) reacts after striking out three straight batters in the eight inning of a game against the Washington Nationals at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies defeated the Nationals 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Phillies won the first game when A.J. Burnett somehow managed to turn in his only quality start since the All-Star break. They won the second thanks to heroics by benchwarmers Freddy Galvis and Darin Ruf. (You might also remember this game as the one where Ian Desmond got all upset when Ken Giles celebrated after striking him out.)

I think just about everyone was surprised when Kyle Kendrick outpitched Doug Fister in the finale, sweeping the Nationals right out of town.

What’s new with the Nationals?

The Nationals haven’t seemed to let the sweep get them down. They’ve won four of their six games since then, winning series against two contenders in the Mariners and Dodgers.

Bryce Harper: Overrated?

Bryce Harper entered the league with a considerable degree of hype. Some pundits called him the “LeBron James of baseball.” Because of that, unless he started out his career like Mike Trout, it was inevitable that he’d be labeled as a disappointment.

Sep 3, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Washington Nationals left fielder Bryce Harper (34) in the dugout during the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Nationals won 8-5 in fourteen innings. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

That said, it probably isn’t a good sign that Harper’s manager didn’t immediately rule out the possibility of sending him down to the minors earlier in the season.

Harper’s biggest problem through his first three seasons has been an inability to stay healthy. He spent over two months on the disabled list this season, and that comes after a 2013 season when he also spent over a month on the DL.

Harper has been hot lately, over the past month, he’s batting .314 with eight home runs. Those kind of numbers will quickly squash any sort of “send him to the minors” talk.

My opinion is that he is somewhat overrated simply due to the amount of hype. But he’s also a quality player who is likely to get better. As hard as it may be to believe, he’s still only 21 years old and is one of the five youngest players in the league.

Starting Pitching Preview

A quick look at the starting pitchers who the Phillies will face this weekend

Stephen Strasburg

I’m surprised the Nationals haven’t shut him down already, claiming they need to preserve him for the playoffs or something. He’s done well against the Phillies in his career, but as I’ll discuss later, he might be in for an unpleasant surprise on Friday night.

Tanner Roark

Tanner Roark. Image Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

He took the loss in his last start against the Phillies, and has a career 5.29 ERA against them. Is he running out of steam in his first full season? He’s 0-2 with a 4.38 ERA over the past two weeks.

Gio Gonzalez

He’s suffered losses in both of his recent starts against the Phillies. If the postseason started today, he’d probably be left out of the Nats’ rotation, so he likely needs a good outing to improve his standing.

Reasons for optimism

1. On paper, Stephen Strasburg vs. Jerome Williams looks like a mismatch. Based on recent results, it may indeed be a mismatch – in the Phillies’ favor!

Aug 30, 2014; New York, NY, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Jerome Williams (31) delivers a pitch against the New York Mets in the first inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Williams has made four starts for the Phillies, and hasn’t given up more than two earned runs in any of them. The Nationals probably have no idea what’s in store for them.

2. Ken Giles is in the Nationals’ heads now. If the Phillies have a lead after the seventh inning, the game is as good as over.

Reasons for pessimism

1. The last time A.J. Burnett pitched in Nationals Park, he didn’t make it past the second inning before getting ejected for arguing balls and strikes.

2. I’m going to be in attendance at Friday’s game with my friend Jason. The Phillies have lost every game we’ve gone to together.


Since I’ll be there, the Phillies will definitely lose Friday’s game, and I’m not especially confident in Burnett right now, so the Nats will probably win on Saturday as well.

My hope is that Cole Hamels can pitch the team to victory on Sunday and salvage the final game of the series.