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Series Preview: Phillies at Nationals

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It's time to head back into the NL East, as the Phillies will for the next six games, bussing around the region from D.C. to Flushing.

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight, it will be another stirring Philadelphia/Washington pitching match-up as Sean O'Sullivan takes on Max Scherzer and everybody makes their little jokes. Well, go ahead and keep smirking, F.P. Santangelo, but how many of the guys in your zillionaire rotation have CAUGHT A COMEBACKER WITH THEIR BARE HANDS yeah I thought so.

Heavy Hitters

Ryan Howard and Chase Utley

Over the last four weeks, Howard has blasted nine home runs, with only two of the sport's premiere sluggers ahead of him in that time (Giancarlo Stanton and, well, you know). He's hitting .300. He's slugging .644. Who is this person? Why is he here? Where can we send him? In the mean time, let's hope the children of the stadium are wearing enough to t-shirts to accommodate him.

Utley's struggles have been far more prolific than Howard's successes. He was crapping out at a .145 BA at one point that may have sunk as low as what, .107? It was really bad and I am tired to crawling into baseball's dank, statistical sub basement to find it. The point is, look at him now! His last six games have been a breath of fresh Utley, featuring a triple, four doubles, four walks, and only one strikeout.

Bryce Harper

Yeah, you know. The Nationals were in last place just over three weeks ago. Now they're in first. Harper is about 80% of why.

Probable Pitchers

Sean OSullivan vs. Max Scherzer
Fat lot of good Scherzer's sparkling 1.75 ERA and magnificent last start are doing if the Nationals' starting rotation has been a stupid-looking 4.32 in their last 21 games! I mean, are they 17-4 in that span? Yes they are. But, hey 4.32 is far from ideal. And that's what the Nationals are going for, isn't? "The Perfect Baseball Team?" That's why they're forcing themselves into the Troy Tulowitzki thing? Heh, heh, yeah, nice one, Nationals.

Cole Hamels vs. Stephen Strasburg
Nobody wants to talk about it, but Strasburg is looking pretty mediocre-at-best this season, with a 5.98 ERA after eight starts and a more liberal surrendering of hits (12.2 H9, highest rate of his career). Hamels, meanwhile, told the Rockiesto shut the hell up in his last start, not allowing home runs (only 1 in over 40 IP) and generally outperforming the competition on regular basis when he gets at least three runs of support. Thankfully, he's got an offense that is hitting the ball behind him, and all they have to do battle with is a young Nationals pitcher just barely keeping his ERA under 6.00.

Aaron Harang vs.Gio Gonzalez
As the grill sizzles and the beers go down cold and the family members ask if it's a little early to start drinking and you demand to know just what the hell problem they have with you honoring the troops by day drinking and they cry and cry, Aaron Harang will be hoping the Phillies' lineup will be able to have his back while he twirls another solid performance. In his only start against them this year, he Harang'd them pretty good - 3 ER, 2 BB and 6 SO in 6.0 IP. The local news on Gio Gonzalez is that he is doing great which is of course, horrible news.

Editor's Note: SB Nation's partner FanDuel is hosting a $125,000 one-day fantasy baseball league today. It's $3 to join and first place wins $10,000. Enter now!