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Series Preview/Discussion: Phillies at Nationals, September 2-4, 2005

Sept. 2: Phillies 7, Nationals 1 WP: Vicente Padilla (8-12) LP: John Halama (1-3)
Sept. 3: Phillies 4, Nationals 5 (F/12)WP: Carrasco (4-3) LP: Lopez (0-1)
Sept. 4: Phillies 1, Nationals 5 WP: Esteban Loaiza (10-10) LP: Gavin Floyd (1-2)

The Phils and Nationals split a four-game series at Citizens Bank Park last month, with Philadelphia holding a 7-6 lead in the season series. Both teams enter the weekend with some rotation questions; Cory Lidle's injury forces Eude Brito to the mound Saturday against Washington ace John Patterson, while the Nats' rainout in Atlanta last week leaves them with no clear starter for Sunday's game. While the Phils rebounded from tough losses in Arizona and their series opener in New York to win their last two at Shea and retake the wild-card lead, the Nats are a bad week away from falling out of the playoff race altogether after losing 8 of the 13 they've played since the end of their series against the Phils. On the verge of a great win in Atlanta Thursday night--the Nats rallied from a 7-1 deficit to send the game into extra innings--Luis Ayala gave up a walkoff 10th-inning home run to Andruw Jones and lost 8-7.

It's no mystery why Washington has fallen from the commanding division lead they held at the summer's beginning: anemic offense. They're last in the NL in runs scored, homers, and OPS. Jose Guillen and Nick Johnson, nice supporting players in most lineups, are far and away the two most dangerous Washington hitters, though Preston Wilson can still punish mistakes and Jose Vidro and Brad Wilkerson always do damage against the Phils. The Nats' pitching, so good in the first half of this season, has worn down somewhat in recent weeks; since the all-star break, Livan Hernandez has posted a 4.64 ERA, Tony Armas Jr. a 4.97 mark, and Ryan Drese--now injured and out of the rotation--an ugly 7.22.

John Patterson, Saturday's starter, has emerged as the star of the rotation, going 5-2 with a 1.97 ERA and 67-18 K/BB ratio since the break. And the bullpen has remained Washington's biggest team strength, with closer Chad Cordero and setup men Luis Ayala, Hector Carrasco and Gary Majewski all sporting ERAs of 2.16 or lower since mid-July. Of potential concern for the Phils is that the Nats now boast lefty specialist Mike Stanton as well as longtime Expo/Nat Joey Eischen.

Head to Head

  • Though he's calmed down considerably since his Bondsian opening series against the Phils, Brad Wilkerson still has impressive numbers for the season series: .375 average (21-56), 1.075 OPS. On the other hand, Phils pitchers have struck him out 17 times.

  • Carlos Baerga, the one-time Cleveland all-star turned journeyman, has hit the Phils hard in limited action this season: he's 8 for 18 with a homer and a 1.167 OPS.

  • The Nats are 1 for 4 as a team in stolen base attempts against the Phillies. But they've out-homered the Phils 13 to 5 in their 13 meetings.

  • In 8 appearances against the Phillies this season, Chad Cordero has not allowed a run; he's 1-0 with 3 saves. Over 10 innings, he's surrendered four hits and three walks while notching 9 strikeouts. Setup man Luis Ayala has been nearly as good, with a 1.17 ERA in 7.2 IP against the Phils.

  • Other than Pat Burrell (.810), every Phillies full-season regular has posted an OPS below .720 against Washington. Ryan Howard, who missed the teams' first six meetings, is 8-26 (.308) vs. the Nats, with a home run and a .919 OPS.
  • The Nationals have yet to score upon Billy Wagner this season. In 9 games (9.1 IP) against Washington, Wagner is 1-0 with four saves and 11 strikeouts.

  • The Phils' other two lefty relievers, Aaron Fultz and Rheal Cormier, have been about as good against the Nats. Fultz has held them scoreless and notched 9 strikeouts in 6.1 IP; Cormier has beaten Washington twice in three decisions and put up a 2.25 ERA in eight appearances.