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Back for more, are you? Phillies vs. Nationals series preview

If they want to make the playoffs, the Phillies need to continue their dominance over the Nationals

Arizona Diamondbacks at Washington Nationals baseball
The Phillies need to continue to make things miserable for Erick Fedde
Photo by Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images

One week left to go, and despite the best efforts of the bullpen, the Phillies are still in position to earn a spot in the playoffs. However, that position is extremely tenuous, making almost every game this week a “must win.” The good news is: The next four games on the schedule are against a team the Phillies have yet to lose to in 2020.

Washington Nationals

Record: 20-32 (Fifth place in National League East)

From first to worst

It’s been a rapid fall for the 2019 World Series champions. They’re in last place, and barring a huge final week, are pretty certain to finish there. In fact, they’re more likely to finish with the worst record in the National League than they are of moving into fourth place. I realize that this is not a normal season, but this is still one of the more pathetic title defenses ever.

Naturally, Nats fans are going with the old “This season doesn’t count anyway” excuse.

Somebody might want to tell this guy that Anthony Rendon isn’t coming back, Max Scherzer isn’t getting any younger, and there’s no telling what Stephen Strasburg is going to look like in 2021.

So much for the super rotation

There was a time not so long ago when a series against the Nationals meant facing Scherzer, Strasburg, and Patrick “Oh wait, maybe six years WAS a mistake” Corbin. The Phillies won’t be facing any of those guys this week. Instead, they’ll see Anibal Sanchez (7.38 ERA), Austin Voth (7.17 ERA), Erick Fedde (4.36 ERA and has given up ten runs in two starts against the Phillies), and likely a bullpen game in the second half of Tuesday’s doubleheader. The Phillies might be missing some cogs from their lineup, but they should still be able to score some runs against these guys.

Of course, the Nationals might have better options for the rotation right now if not for a trade they made a few years back.

I realize that Eaton was a member of the World Series team, but considering he’s never been worth more than 2 wins (bWAR) in a season since the trade, and has a negative value for this season, the Nats probably wish they had a do-over on that one.

Battle of the bad bullpens

We’ve got another doubleheader in this series, and both teams seem likely to use a bullpen game in one of the games. Obviously the Nationals have a better relief corps than the Phillies, because it would be impossible not to. However, their group hasn’t exactly been good this season either, minimizing one of the few advantages that most teams have over the Phils. Daniel Hudson has been particularly bad lately, blowing his two most recent save opportunities. (That sound you hear is Matt Klentak figuring out how to trade for him this offseason.)

If the Phillies do face off against Hudson, apparently the key is to just make contact, because there’s a good chance, the ball will leave the yard if they do.

Feel better, Bryce

Bryce Harper’s status for this week is in doubt as he’s dealing with back stiffness. It would be really nice if he’s feeling well enough to play considering that in the two seasons since leaving the Nationals, his on-base percentage at his former home stadium is .480.

Suggestion for Joe Girardi #1: Embrace the intentional walk

Here’s an idea: If there’s a key moment in any of these games, and Juan Soto or Trea Turner come to the plate, just send them over to first base. If Eaton or Kurt Suzuki beat them, then so be it. But let’s not let the obvious suspects do it.

Suggestion for Joe Girardi #2: Trust the starters

With a week left in the season, this might finally be a good time for Joe Girardi to trust in his starters. All season, he’s had a quick hook with the starting pitchers, especially with Zack Wheeler. This needs to stop now. Even with only nine viable fingernails, I’d trust Wheeler a third (and fourth?) time through the order than anyone in the bullpen.


While a season sweep over the Nats would be awesome, I don’t think the Phillies are capable of it. They actually won their last bullpen game, but I can’t think they’ll be able to pull off that trick twice in a row. However, with their three best starters scheduled in the other games, winning three out of four against a team that is well out of the race shouldn’t be impossible.