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A welcome sight for Bryce: Phillies vs. Nationals series preview

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With his former team struggling, it’s time for Bryce Harper to heat up

Washington Nationals v Philadelphia Phillies
Bryce Harper seems to enjoy facing the Nationals
Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The Nationals were thought to be top contenders for the National League East title this season, but so far, they’ve been an injury-mottled disappointment. Their arrival figures to be good news for the PhilliesBryce Harper who may be poised to snap out of a recent slump.

Washington Nationals

Record: 13-17, Fourth place in National League East

The last time they met

When the Nationals came to Philadelphia for a three-game set last month, the Phillies played very well for the first half of the series. Unfortunately, they played very poorly in the second half of the series, and the result was a series win for the Nats.

Since then

The Nats have struggled, going 7-12. Although they won on Thursday, they are just 3-7 in their last ten games.

Weren’t the Nats supposed to be good? What happened?

The biggest problem for the Nationals appears to be a lack of good health. For the second straight year, the Nats have been struck hard by the injury bug. Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto, Trea Turner, Koda Glover, and Ryan Zimmerman are all dealing with various ailments and they are all either on the injured list or thought to be questionable for this weekend. Pitcher Trevor Rosenthal is also on the injured list, but considering how poorly he pitched this season, that might be a blessing for the Nats.

A convenient scapegoat

The Nats have apparently decided that pitching coach Derek Lilliquist was part of the problem.

The Nats may very well turn things around, but it typically isn’t a great sign when coaches are getting fired in May.

Defer this

The Nats’ best offer to Bryce Harper famously included a hefty amount of deferred money. Not wanting to wait until he was 60 to collect his money, Harper decided to head to Philadelphia. Unfortunately, after a blazing hot start to the season, Harper hasn’t been playing especially well, batting only .202 over the past 30 days with some defensive miscues to go along with it.

However, there are reasons to believe that Harper is about to heat up. In his last game against the Tigers, he was 0-4, but he had multiple “loud” outs in which he hit the ball hard, but the hits didn’t drop in. That is often a sign that a guy is about to break out of a slump. Perhaps more importantly, he seems to really enjoy tormenting his old team. In the five games between the Phillies and Nats, Harper has a .545 on base percentage with two home runs.

U mad, Smash Mouth?

Apparently, rock band Smash Mouth is still bitter about Harper not signing with the San Francisco Giants:

Naturally, Phillies fans have clapped back a bit:

Scheduled starters for the Nationals

The Nationals will send Jeremy Hellickson, Patrick Corbin, and Anibal Sanchez to face the Phillies.

Hellickson has a 2-0 record, but his 5.82 ERA is more indicative of how the former Phillie has actually pitched. He did manage to shut the Phillies out for six innings when he faced them earlier, but that was a 15-1 blowout in which little went right for the Phils.

Patrick Corbin was the Nats’ marquee offseason acquisition. He was pitching pretty well until the Cardinals lit him up in his most recent start. Earlier in the season, he prompted this bizarre flex by the Nats’ Twitter account:

Feels like that tweet was sent five years too early, but you do you, Nats.

Sanchez is another member of the “above 5 ERA” club, but unlike Hellickson, Sanchez’s record (0-4) reflects how he’s pitched. Sanchez hasn’t had much success at Citizens Bank Park, with a career 5.53 ERA there. The Phillies have faced him twice already this season, and he’s allowed seven runs in 9.2 total innings.

Prediction

It would be great if the Phillies could take advantage of a struggling team and put some distance between them in the standings. A sweep would be great, but the Phillies aren’t playing well enough themselves to count on that. Winning two out of three will have to suffice.