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 Phillies’ Bryce Harper who may be poised to snap out of a recent slump.
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.
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.
Trevor Rosenthal has recorded an out. He struck out Andrew Knapp. He now owns an ERA. It's 189.19.— Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) April 11, 2019
A convenient scapegoat
The Nats have apparently decided that pitching coach Derek Lilliquist was part of the problem.
The Nationals have let go of pitching coach Derek Lilliquist, general manager Mike Rizzo just announced. Paul Menhart, currently Washington’s minor league pitching coordinator, will replace him.— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) May 3, 2019
The Nats may very well turn things around, but it typically isn’t a great sign when coaches are getting fired in May.
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:
Yo Bryce.......told you not to go to Philly jackass! The @SFGiants fans NEVER boo their own players! You we're lead by $ only so swim in the sea of boos now! How much do you love your agent now?? Worth the taxes you avoided? How's that 45min drive to the stadium?lol @bryceharper3— Smash Mouth (@smashmouth) May 1, 2019
Naturally, Phillies fans have clapped back a bit:
Hits since 1998:— 2008 Phillies (@2008Philz) May 2, 2019
Smash Mouth, 1
Bryce Harper, 947 https://t.co/gN5HnDCECN
Tweeting like a jealous 15 year old girl over Bryce Harper is the most relevant thing Smash Mouth has done since the 90s. https://t.co/nIDIqUyYSJ— Matt Michaels (@MattyMike0718) May 2, 2019
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:
cAnT gIvE pAtRiCk CoRbIn SiX yEaRs ThO pic.twitter.com/qNJ49ExVRI— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) April 18, 2019
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.
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.