Series Preview: Phillies at Nationals

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The Phillies (18-25) continue their road trip with a Memorial Day weekend series in Washington to take on the red-hot (24-17) Nationals. The Phils split a series in Colorado this week, while the Nationals have ripped off 5 straight victories, taken 11 of their last 13, and have taken over first place in the NL East. They own a 7 game lead on the Phillies, who currently sit in fourth place.

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Washington made national waves in a mini-controversy the other day when baseball’s hottest hitter, right fielder Bryce Harper, was ejected in a game against the New York Yankees. The Nats, as well as many around baseball, did not feel that the often overly emotional Harper merited ejection.

Manager Matt Williams argued in his defense, which resulted in his own ejection. The umpire, Marvin Hudson, explained the Harper ejection later, “He didn’t like the pitch, and I let him have his say, going and coming…The dugout didn’t like it, and one thing led to another and I had to run him. I had to eject him.”

Harper responded, “I don’t think 40,000 people came to watch him ump tonight. Plain and simple. Plain and simple. I mean, I really don’t think they did. Especially when we’re playing the Yankees. The Yankees are a good team, we’re a good team and we’re rolling. And, I mean, the way I’m hitting, I don’t want to get tossed. I don’t think I really did anything bad to get tossed. But maybe he just had a bad morning. Maybe he didn’t get his coffee.

Despite the loss of their star that day, the Nationals won the matchup with New York. But Harper’s inability at times to keep his cool might be something to watch in this series. The Nats have a couple of key bats missing as well. Former Phillies hero Jayson Werth in on the DL for the 2nd time this season, and star 3rd baseman Anthony Rendon has yet to play in 2015.

Even with a couple big bats missing, the Nats are currently one of baseball’s elite offenses. The lineup still contains a plethora of great bats. They include the mashing Harper (.333/.472/.732, 15 HR, 38 RBI), veteran 1st baseman Ryan Zimmerman (5 HR, 31 RBI), and speedy center fielder Denard Span (.333/.375/.510, 3 HR, 13 RBI).

The Phillies have not been too bad themselves lately. Their top hitters are Freddy Galvis (.319/.380/.368, 1 HR, 11 RBI, 5 SB), who we highlighted here at TBOH this week as a possible NL All-Star. Also hitting well for the Phils are Odubel Herrera (.262/.295/.369, 1 HR, 13 RBI, 6 SB), and the scorching-hot Ryan Howard (.257/.307/.521, 9 HR, 21 RBI). In his last 10 games, Howard is batting a robust .342 with 3 home runs and 6 RBI. Maikel Franco (.259/.333/.481, 1 HR, 5 RBI) is also quickly establishing himself as a key cog in this lineup.

This series will take place in Nationals Park, which is very similar to Citizens Bank Park in size. Nationals Park is 337, 402, and 335 feet to left, center, and right field, respectively. The Bank runs 329, 401, and 330 feet to those points.

PITCHING MATCHUPS:

Sean O’Sullivan (1-2, 3.68 ERA) v. Max Scherzer (4-3, 1.75 ERA) – Oddly enough, O’Sullivan and Scherzer will meet for a 3rd time already this season tonight. The Nationals secured victories in each of the previous matchups. O’Sullivan may be finding his stride after putting together a very nice start in his last appearance against the Diamondbacks (6 IP, 0 ER, 5 H, 2 BB, 4 SO), and hopes to build off that game to produce a solid start against a surging Nationals squad. Scherzer is coming off a dominant win over the Padres (7 IP, 0 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 11 SO). Afterward, the Nats new ace commented, “I always believe your last 15 pitches dictate kind of how you feel about your start… Even though they were able to scratch a couple of hits, I was still able to pitch my best. I still had my best fastball; I still had my best stuff there even as I was approaching the end.” He will be looking for more of the same against the Fightin’ Phils.

Cole Hamels (4-3, 3.24 ERA) v. Stephen Strasburg (3-4, 5.98 ERA) – Hamels continued his rise back towards the top of the National League pitching ranks last week by completely shutting down the Rockies (7.1 IP, 1 ER, 6 H, 1 BB, 7 SO). In two starts against Washington this season, Hamels had one good day and one bad. He’s looking to find consistency against them and extend his streak of strong starting outings to four. Strasburg has not really been himself this season, but pulled off a win with a mediocre performance the other day (5 IP, 3 ER, 5 H, 1 BB, 7 SO). He’ll attempt to pick up his season this Saturday evening in a marquee mound matchup.

Aaron Harang (4-3, 1.82 ERA) v. Gio Gonzalez (3-2, 4.94 ERA) – As of Thursday, Harang was ranked the third best starting pitcher in all of Major League Baseball by WAR. He’s produced 2.36 wins this season, which trails behind only Dallas Keuchel and Sonny Gray. After surrendering a few unearned runs to the Rockies due to poor defense behind him, Harang settled in and had another great night in Colorado (6 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 3 BB, 7 SO). He will try to continue his mastery of the league on Sunday afternoon. Gonzalez, another Nats pitcher not quite performing up to capabilities, got shelled in his last start (5 IP, 6 ER, 6 H, 2 BB, 1 SO). He will try to get his season moving in a more positive direction this weekend.

SERIES KEYS:

Utley and Howard must produce – Is it any coincidence that the Phillies got hot when both Utley and Howard put together very impressive stretches. That’s not very likely. In addition to Howard stroking the ball very well, Utley has hit .314 over his last 10 games. Just like the old days, these two have been pacing the Phillies offense, and will need to continue to do so if the Phils hope to keep up with a top-notch Nationals club.

Win Hamels’ Matchup – With the trouble Strasburg has been having, the most winnable game for the Phillies may just be the Hamels matchup. With the game first-game starting pitching edge clearly going to the Nationals and Scherzer, and the last game looking wide-open, the Saturday game is presumably very critical for the Phillies in order to have a shot at the series.

BROADCAST INFO:

Game 1: Friday, 7:05 PM, TV: NBC10, Radio: 1210FM, 94AM, 1480AM (Spanish Language)

Game 2: Saturday, 4:05 PM, TV: TCN, Radio: 1210FM, 94AM, 1480AM (Spanish Language)

Game 3: Sunday, 1:35 PM, TV: CSN, Radio: 1210FM, 94AM, 1480AM (Spanish Language)


NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE for Nationals Park in Washington, DC this weekend

Today

Mostly sunny, with a high near 76. West wind 11 to 14 mph, with gusts as high as 25 mph.

Tonight

Isolated showers before 10pm. Mostly clear, with a low around 52. Northwest wind 8 to 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

Saturday

Sunny, with a high near 72. North wind 3 to 7 mph.

Saturday Night

Mostly clear, with a low around 56. South wind 3 to 5 mph.

Sunday

Mostly sunny, with a high near 82. Southwest wind 5 to 7 mph.


INJURIES

NATIONALSDateStatusDue BackInjuryNotes
Davis, Erik (P)05/1415-day DLPossibly SeptemberRecovering from April 2014 Tommy John surgerySent on Double-A rehab assignment May 14.
Fister, Doug (P)05/1915-day DLPossibly early JuneRight flexor strainMRI revealed no tear May 16; placed on 15-day DL on May 15.
Janssen, Casey (P)05/1915-day DLPossibly late MayRight shoulder tendinitisSent on Double-A rehab assignment May 12.
Johnson, Reed (LF)05/1915-day DLPossibly late JulyRecovering from April 2015 foot surgeryWas expected to have bandages removed May 11; placed on 15-day DL on April 29.
McLouth, Nate (LF)05/0915-day DLPossibly MayRecovering from August 2014 right shoulder surgeryPlaced on 15-day DL on April 5 retroactive to March 27.
Rendon, Anthony (3B)05/2015-day DLPossibly MayLeft MCL sprain, left obliqueDid fielding drills, played catch, took light swings at Nationals Park on May 20.
Rivero, Felipe (P)05/0415-day DLTBDGastrointestinal bleedingParticipating in light workouts as of May 4.
Stammen, Craig (P)04/21Out for Season2016Recovering from April 2015 right forearm surgeryUnderwent season-ending surgery April 19.
Werth, Jayson (RF)05/1915-day DLPossibly early JuneLeft wrist contusionPlaced on 15-day DL on May 19 retroactive to May 16.

PHILLIESDateStatusDue BackInjuryNotes
Billingsley, Chad (P)05/1815-day DLPossibly JulyGrade 2 right lat strainPlaced on the 15-day DL May 18 retroactive to May 16.
Hollands, Mario (P)04/20Out for Season2016Recovering from April 2015 Tommy John surgeryUnderwent Tommy John surgery April 8.
Lee, Cliff (P)04/0560-day DLPossibly 2015Left common flexor tendon tearShut down from throwing, placed on 60-day DL on March 16.
Pettibone, Jonathan (P)05/0960-day DLTBDRecovering from June 2014 right elbow surgeryTransferred to 60-day DL on April 28.
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