Phillies Series Preview: at Washington Nationals

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Apr 22, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals left fielder Jayson Werth (28) celebrates with catcher Jose Lobaton (59) after his fifth inning solo home run against the Minnesota Twins at Nationals Park. Washington Nationals defeated Minnesota Twins 8-4. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 22, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals left fielder Jayson Werth (28) celebrates with catcher Jose Lobaton (59) after his fifth inning solo home run against the Minnesota Twins at Nationals Park. Washington Nationals defeated Minnesota Twins 8-4. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Philadelphia Phillies will visit the Nation’s Capital this week for a three-game series against the Washington Nationals.

The Fightin’ Phils actually have shown some fight this season here in the early going, which has caused some in the fan base to speculate that perhaps they can finish better than many predicted at the start of the 2016 campaign.

The Phillies have split their three series to this point, defeating the New York Mets, San Diego Padres, and the Milwaukee Brewers in their just-completed weekend set. The Phils have lost series to the Cincinnati Reds, the Mets, and these Nationals.

A little more than a week ago at Citizens Bank Park, the Nats went to South Philly and crushed the Phils in the first two games of that series by a combined score of 17-2. The Phillies bounced back to scrape out a 3-2 walkoff in 10 innings in the Sunday afternoon finale of that series.

The Nationals entered the 2016 season as co-favorites in the NL East, along with the defending NL champion Mets. Washington started the season hot, and has stayed so, now having won three straight while forging an 8-1 home record and an overall 14-4 mark that has them with a three game lead over New York.

The Nats potent and well-rounded offensive attack is led once again by the defending NL Most Valuable Player, Bryce Harper. The 23-year old right fielder has a phenomenal .323/.405/.855 slash line with nine homers, 23 RBI, and 15 runs scored, and he has even stolen three bases.

Playing 2nd fiddle to Harper in the Nats’ attack thus far has been new 2nd baseman Daniel Murphy. One of the stars of the Mets’ playoff run a year ago, the 31-year old Murphy is hitting to a .397/.465/.635 slash line with nine extra-base hits and nine RBI, both 2nd on the club to Harper.

Former Phillies hero Jayson Werth remains a potent piece of the Washington attack. Now in the penultimate year of the historic 7-year contract that he signed on leaving the Phils for D.C. following the 2010 season, the 37-year old left fielder is 2nd on the team with three homers, 3rd with eight RBI, and continues to know how to work a pitcher, take a walk, and run the bases.

Catcher Wilson Ramos is one of the most consistent offensive backstops in the game. He carries a .316 average into the series with two homers and eight RBI. Meanwhile, the Nationals are still waiting for both Ryan Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon to get it going. If that happens, they could run away with the division.

For the second straight meeting between these division rivals, the Phillies will miss Stephen Strasburg. The 27-year old righty has been lights-out for Washington this season with a 3-0 record, 2.17 ERA, 0.931 WHIP, 2.11 FIP, and a 31/7 K:BB ratio over 29 innings in which he has allowed just 20 hits.

The Nationals bullpen features former Phillies controversial closer Jonathan Papelbon, the career Saves leader with both the Phils and the Boston Red Sox. Paps has 7 Saves already, but has allowed nine hits over 8.1 innings, and blew his only opportunity in that 10th inning Phillies win just 10 days ago in Philadelphia.

Left-handers Felipe Rivero and Oliver Perez have both pitched extremely well, as have righties Blake Treinen, Yusmeiro Petit, Matt Belisle, and Shawn Kelley out of the Nationals bullpen, collectively allowing just 29 hits over 46.2 innings with a combined 47/15 K:BB ratio.

PITCHING MATCHUPS

TUESDAY: Vincent Velasquez (2-1, 0.93 ERA) vs Max Scherzer (2-1, 4.32 ERA): the former Detroit Tigers great is now in his 2nd season with the Nats after signing as a free agent in January of 2015. So far this season he has been a bit inconsistent, alternating good starts with bad over his first four outings. His last time out in Miami was one of the bad, as he allowed the Marlins to score five earned runs, allowing eight hits over five innings in taking the loss. Velasquez meanwhile has two brilliant outings followed by his most recent, a frustrating one in which he basically threw just two bad pitches against the Mets over 4.1 innings. Both were hit out of the park for home runs.

Apr 9, 2016; New York City, NY, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Velasquez (28) takes a moment prior to the first inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field. (Photo Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports)
Apr 9, 2016; New York City, NY, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Velasquez (28) takes a moment prior to the first inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field. (Photo Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports) /

WEDNESDAY:

Jeremy Hellickson

(1-1, 5.21 ERA) vs

Gio Gonzalez

(1-0, 1.42 ERA): Gonzalez was the hard-luck starter against the Phillies on the day that Papelbon blew it, tossing 7 strong innings in Philly over which he allowed just four hits while striking out eight and walking two. The 30-year old southpaw has looked solid in his other two outings as well this season. Hellickson has been bombed over his last two starts, allowing nine earned runs and 17 hits over just 7.1 total innings against the Nats and Mets.

THURSDAY: Aaron Nola (1-2, 4.50 ERA) vs Tanner Roark (2-2, 2.63 ERA): a 29-year old righty, Roark has alternated good with mediocre outings, much as Scherzer. Unlike Scherzer, Roark’s last was strong, a two-hitter over 7 overpowering innings in which he struck out 15 Minnesota Twins. Nola bounced back from his worst start as a Phillie to record one of his best his last time out in winning at Milwaukee.

KEYS TO PHILLIES VICTORY

HARNESS HARPER: now, how do you do that? Who the heck knows? The Phillies don’t for sure. In Philly he went 7-14 with homers in all three games. Walk him a heck of a lot whenever you can, and hope that the other Nationals batters don’t beat you. Sounds like a plan.

RIDE YOUNG ACES: getting strong starting performances from both Velasquez and Nola in which they largely neutralize the Nationals attack would go a long way towards winning this tough road series. And coming off two straight stinkers, Hellickson really needs to show something here.

RUF READY? Darin Ruf has been, well, not good. But he is 3 for his last 7, and gets a lefty starting pitcher in the middle game. The Nats also have strong left-handed relievers. Ruf should get a few shots at southpaws with which to do damage, and he must start to produce something. If he cannot shine against lefties, what good is he?

BROADCAST SCHEDULE

Phillies
Apr 24, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals center fielder Michael Taylor (3) warms up in the on deck circle against the Minnesota Twins in the fifth inning at Nationals Park. The Nationals won 5-4 in sixteen innings. (Photo Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports) /
Tuesday, April 26th@Washington Nationals7:05 PM EDTCSN TV Radio: 94 WIP FM
Wednesday, April 27th@Washington Nationals7:05 PM EDTCSN TVRadio: 94 WIP FM
Thursday, April 28th@Washington Nationals4:05 PM EDTCSN TVRadio: 94 WIP FM

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE forecast for Nationals Park along the Anacostia River in Washington, D.C.

Tonight

Apr 24, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals center fielder Michael Taylor (3) warms up in the on deck circle against the Minnesota Twins in the fifth inning at Nationals Park. The Nationals won 5-4 in sixteen innings. (Photo Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

Showers and thunderstorms likely before 2am, then a slight chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 55. Light and variable wind becoming northeast 6 to 11 mph after midnight. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New rainfall amounts of less than a tenth of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.

Wednesday

A slight chance of showers after 2pm. Cloudy, with a high near 63. East wind 6 to 8 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

Wednesday Night

A slight chance of showers, then showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm after 2am. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 53. Southeast wind 3 to 5 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New rainfall amounts of less than a tenth of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.

Thursday

Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm. Cloudy, with a high near 61. East wind around 7 mph. Chance of precipitation is 70%. New precipitation amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.


INJURIES / DISABLED LIST

Washington Nationals

DatePlayerStatus
4/5Ben Revere, LFStrained right oblique (on 15-day DL)
4/1Aaron Barrett, PRecovery from right elbow surgery (on 60-day DL)

Philadelphia Phillies

DatePlayerStatus
4/24Charlie Morton, PStrained left hamstring (on 15-day DL)
4/2Aaron Altherr, LFTorn tendon in left wrist (on 60-day DL)
4/2Matt Harrison, PLower back inflammation (on 60-day DL)
4/2Mario Hollands, PRecovery from left elbow surgery (on 60-day DL)
3/25Cody Asche, LFStrained right oblique (on 15-day DL)
3/25Michael Mariot, PRight ankle sprain (on 15-day DL)

Next: Phillies Dumped by Brewers One-Inning Barrage

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