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Battle of the Also-Rans: Phillies vs. Nationals Series Preview

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Another meeting of two teams who likely aren’t winning the National League East in 2018

Philadelphia Phillies v Washington Nationals Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

On a miserable, rainy Sunday afternoon, the Phillies were presented with a gift: Jacob deGrom was scratched from the game, and the Phillies would not have to face the man who has arguably been the best starting pitcher in baseball this season. How did the Phillies react to this gift? By only managing three runs on offense, and watching yet another of their starting pitchers turn in a disappointing performance.

With that, the Phillies lost yet another series, and more importantly, they’ve fallen 4.5 games behind the Braves in the National League East. While all hope is not lost, it certainly seems to be on life support.

Even if the Phillies don’t make the postseason, this year shouldn’t be seen as a huge disappointment. After all, most pundits didn’t predict that this team would make the playoffs. Most of us figured we’d be happy if they merely stayed in contention for the majority of the season.

That’s a far cry from the expectations that were facing the Washington Nationals. After two straight National League East titles, they were heavy favorites to take the crown yet again. The fact that they’re currently below .500 has to be seen as far more disappointing than anything the Phillies have done.

So remember: This past month or so has been disappointing, but it could always be worse. We could be Nationals fans.

And really, don’t feel too bad for Nationals fans. Most of them have just conveniently switched their allegiance back over to the other team that they cheer for, and probably consider to be their “main” team.

The Last Time They Met

As they seem to always do, the Phillies lost two games in a three-game series. This series featured one of those gut punch losses that we’ve grown to love. In case you can’t keep track of them all, this was the one where Vince Velasquez was pinch running and left base early.

Washington Nationals v Philadelphia Phillies
Vince doesn’t have a lot of experience tagging up
Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images

And Since Then?

If Nats fans have been holding onto hope that the team would make a furious last-minute run at a playoff spot, that last minute is just about here. The Nats are 4-5 since the Phillies series, and it seems like the Nats simply don’t have a run in them.

The Nats should be well rested since they spent most of the day Sunday sitting around waiting for their game to eventually be cancelled. This may or may not have been a conspiracy against the Cubs.

Who’s Hot on the Nats?

It might be a lost season for the Nats, but it’s hard to place too much blame on Anthony Rendon. He’s slugging .600 over the past two weeks. And Bryce Harper isn’t having his best season, but he seems determined to enter free agency on a high note. His OPS in September is 1.373.

Chicago Cubs v Washington Nationals - Game Two
Bryce Harper’s last days in Washington have been productive ones
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Who’s Not?

Reliever Jimmy Cordero was once in the Phillies’ system, and his play since joining the major league team hasn’t caused them to regret trading him away. He’s got a 5.06 ERA.

Starting Pitching Matchups

Monday: Jake Arrieta vs. Tanner Roark

Backed by some run support, Arrieta earned a win in his last start. It wasn’t his finest performance, with four runs allowed in 7.1 innings, but considering how tough wins have been to come by lately, I don’t want to complain when a pitcher actually does enough to earn one. (I’m now cringing as I imagine a debate over pitcher wins breaking out in the comments section.)

Tanner Roark hasn’t done well lately. He’s lost his last three starts, and gave up six runs in the most recent. He faced the Phillies last month, but thanks to a rain delay, he was removed after three innings. It’s tough to ever know what to expect from Roark. He’s one of the most inconsistent pitchers in the majors.

St Louis Cardinals v Washington Nationals
Tanner Roark is good sometimes, but not lately
Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Tuesday: Stephen Strasburg vs. Nick Pivetta

It felt like the Phillies had a chance to have a second straight good game against Strasburg in his last start, but after scoring two early runs, the offense disappeared. (Sound familiar?) Strasburg has been pretty good in his last few starts, but far from the dominating presence of years past.

Pivetta has been awful against the Nationals this season, as evidenced by his 15.58 ERA. He did have a successful inning of relief against them since his last start, so maybe that’s a sign that he’s going to turn that around. Although really, when your ERA against a team is over 15, it’s tough not to improve.

Wednesday: Aaron Nola vs. Joe Ross

Aaron Nola certainly hasn’t been bad lately, but he also hasn’t been in uber ace mode in his last two starts. It shows just how high expectations have gotten for him, when we consider what would normally be good starts to be disappointing.

Joe Ross will be making his first start of the season. Based on how the Phillies usually fare against inexperienced starters, it’s probably a good bet that he’ll go at least six innings, holding them to two runs or less.

Hoskins is Hot, Who’s With Him?

Rhys Hoskins has spent most of his first two seasons proving himself to be an extremely streaky hitter. Based on his three home runs over the past three days, he is now in the midst of a hot streak. While said hotness didn’t help the Phillies win more than one game against the Mets, it certainly bodes well for their offense moving forward.

Philadelphia Phillies v New York Mets
Rhys Hoskins is hot, but he can’t do it alone
Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Now if he could only get some help. According to the stat sheet, Cesar Hernandez, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Carlos Santana have all been hitting well lately, but it doesn’t really feel that way, does it? They need to find a way to translate those hits into runs.

Boo This Man

Do the Nats really have anyone left who’s all that dislikable? I know some of you don’t like Bryce Harper, but I have a weird soft spot in my heart for the guy. Plus, I wouldn’t mind seeing the Phillies sign him, so I don’t want to cause any hard feelings.

Anyone else worth booing? How about Anthony Rendon? Do we dislike him? Has he ever done anything too disdain-worthy?

Chicago Cubs v Washington Nationals - Game Two
I guess we can boo Anthony Rendon
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Prediction

Seems like the Phillies are bound to come out on top in a series one of these days. They’ve got Aaron Nola pitching one game in the series, so that one is definitely winnable. And beating Tanner Roark isn’t impossible either. So there you go! Phillies will finally win a series, and their dreams will remain alive for a few more days.