Phillies Series Preview: at Washington Nationals

Jun 20, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; "Teddy" wins the "President
Jun 20, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; "Teddy" wins the "President /
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Jun 20, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; “Teddy” wins the “President race at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. /

The Philadelphia Phillies travel to our nation’s capital this weekend to take on the NL East-leading Washington Nationals.

When last we saw the Phillies on Wednesday afternoon, the club was being embarrassed 8-1 by the best team in baseball, the Chicago Cubs.

That loss gave the Phils a miserable 3-7 record on a 10-game homestand that not only didn’t right their floundering ship, but that instead saw it take on more water.

The Phillies have not won in four consecutive series, and have lost 14 of their last 19 to drop two games below the .500 mark, seven full games behind the Nats in the division standings.

Washington on the other hand has gotten red-hot. The Nationals had won seven of nine before dropping a 3-1 game to the visiting Chicago White Sox yesterday. That would prove the final game for Jimmy Rollins in a Chisox uniform, as the former Phillies icon was DFA’d today.

Some bad news for the Phillies may be that Nationals’ mega-star outfielder Bryce Harper, who had been in a month-long funk, seems to be breaking out just in time for their arrival.

Harper is hitting ..421 with a .526 slugging percentage over his last four games, and had a pair of three-hit games this week. He is hitting for a .257/.408/.519 slash line on the season with 13 homers, 37 RBI, 35 runs, and seven stolen bases.

Daniel Murphy, signed away from the rival New York Mets as a free agent this off-season, has continued to put together a phenomenal season for the Nats. The 2nd baseman is hitting for a .374/.413/.617 slash line with 11 homers, 39 RBI, and 37 runs.

3rd baseman Anthony Rendon began the season ice-cold, but that is yesterday’s news. Over the past month since May 10th, Rendon is hitting for a .330/.420/.557 slash line with four homers, 15 RBI, 17 runs, and nine other extra-base hits.

Former Phils’ star Jayson Werth can still hit with power. He has 10 home runs and 31 RBI on the season. Danny Espinosa and Ryan Zimmerman each have  nine homers, and catcher Wilson Ramos has eight longballs.

When veteran manager Dusty Baker has to turn to his bullpen late in games, he still calls on the man Phillies fans love to hate more than any other right now, ex-Phils closer Jonathan Papelbon

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The 15 Saves which Paps has registered somewhat mask numbers that are beginning to slip for the now 35-year old. He has allowed 24 hits over 22.2 innings with an 18/7 K:BB ratio, and is no longer the dominant, automatic, shutdown closer that he was in younger years.

Fortunately for Baker and the Nats, there are plenty of talented setup options. Righties Blake Treinen, Shawn Kelley, and Yusmeiro Petit have all been excellent, and lefties Felipe Rivero, Oliver Perez, and Sammy Solis have been dominant.

This will mark the fourth series between the two teams already this season. After this weekend, they will play just twice more, and do not see one another at all until the end of August.