Phillies at Nationals: Series Preview

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Sep 23, 2015; Washington, DC, USA;

Papelbon (58) argues with second base umpire Alan Porter (64) after being ejected from the game during the ninth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Nationals Park.

(Photo Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports)

It’s hard to imagine a team more disappointing than the Phillies have been in the 2015 season. But if there is one, it most certainly has to be the Washington Nationals team that the Phils will be visiting this weekend at Nationals Park in the nation’s capital.

The Nationals are the defending NL East champions, have won the division in 2 of the last 3 years, and were heavily favored to not only win it again this season, but to likely run away with the crown on their way to a World Series trip.

Things could not have gone worse for the Nats, who are now on the verge of elimination. In fact, if they can find a way to score a few runs, the Phillies just may be the team to put the final nail in their 2015 coffin. That would certainly be one small victory for Phillies fans to enjoy.

The Nationals had won 7 of 8 games to cut the New York Mets lead in the division down from 9.5 games to 6.5 games. That was until their neighbors just 40 miles to the north, the AL’s Baltimore Orioles came in to D.C. and swept the Nats in a 3-game series this week.

Now the Nationals find themselves 7.5 behind the Mets with just 10 games to play (9 for New York), and the ‘Magic Number’ for the Mets to clinch the NL East crown is down to 3 entering the weekend.

The Phillies have their own ‘Magic Number’, if you will. There cominbation of losses and Atlanta wins is just 4 over the Braves in order to clinch the worst overall record in MLB, and the accompanying top pick in the 2016 MLB Amateur Draft.

The Nats feature a leading NL MVP candidate in lightening rod outfielder Bryce Harper. At just 22-years of age, Harper is still younger than most of the game’s top prospects. Yet the right fielder has a .339/.471/.665 slash line with 41 homers, 95 RBI, 116 runs scored, and a 1.136 OPS mark.

The powerful Nats have 7 players with double-digits home run totals, including 2B/3B Anthony Rendon who missed the first two months of the season. Over the last month, Rendon has hit for a .317/.394/.455 slash line with 18 RBI and 27 runs scored.

Perhaps the most surprising of the Nationals’ bats this season has been 3rd baseman Yunel Escobar. Normally a shortstop, Escobar stepped into the 3rd base hole vacated by Rendon’s early season injury. He has a .326 batting average, a .384 on-base percentage, and is just one homer away from joining that double-digit group.

Here in Philly, some of our staff will be working long hours in relation to Pope Francis’ visit, so our coverage at the website and on social media may be a bit limited until Monday. However, keep checking in, including with the individual staffers who are highlighted in a posting at our Twitter feed today. We will be posting as much as possible on the Fightin’ Phils.

Of course Phillies fans will be rooting hard against Jonathan Papelbon, the Phils’ all-time franchise Saves leader who was dealt to the Nationals at this year’s trade deadline. Papelbon was not a fan favorite, to put things mildly, and the feelings appear to be mutual. The Nats decline appears to have coincided with the trade, giving Phils’ fans even more to gloat about.

Now let’s take a look at this weekend’s Pitching Matchups. The Phillies are facing tough arms, but are also putting their own best on the hill as well. We’ll also look at the Series Keys, the TV/radio coverage, weather, and DL/injury reports.

Next: PHILLIES-NATIONALS PITCHING MATCHUPS

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