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Letting the days go by: Phillies vs. Nationals series preview

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Same as it ever was for the Phillies

MLB: Washington Nationals at Philadelphia Phillies
Future ex-National Max Scherzer wasn’t happy about the substance check
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

After a four-game series against the Braves that showed exactly why the Phillies have been the .500-iest of all .500 teams, they’ll now welcome another division rival. The Nationals appear to be fading from contention, and there are rumors that they might become trade deadline sellers.

Can the Phillies prove that they should be buyers? Can they prove they should be sellers? Can they prove anything? Can any of us really prove anything???

Washington Nationals

Record: 45-53 (Fourth place in National League East)

The last time they met

The Nationals came to Philadelphia for two games in late June and won both of them. The first game was the one where Max Scherzer threw a hissy fit upon getting checked for illegal substances. The second game may have been the worst pitched (and managed!) game in Phillies history.

Since then?

That victory didn’t springboard the Nats to success, as they’re just 10-17 since that series. They come into this series on a four-game losing streak, including a sweep at the hands of their Beltway rival Orioles. (Note: The Orioles have the fewest wins in the American League.)

Least valuable player

Aside from a sporadic good start (one of them coming against the Phillies), Patrick Corbin has been lousy most of the year. For a brief second, it looked like he was turning things around, but his ERA in July has been a ghastly 7.17.

Corbin is scheduled to start on Wednesday, and the Phillies will counter with Zack Wheeler. That seems like a game that the Phillies really need to find a way to win.

Max on the move?

Except for when the Nationals’ notoriously awful Twitter account jinxes him, Max Scherzer has had another strong season. Maybe not “Start the All-Star Game” good, but very good nonetheless. But it seems like his time in Washington may be coming to an end.

Apparently, getting swept by the last place Orioles convinced the Nats’ front office that 2021 is not their year, and are open to selling pieces, with Scherzer being the most appealing. He’s due to be a free agent at season’s end, so this would be a rental, but he’d be an upgrade for just about every team’s rotation.

Scherzer has been dealing with an injury, and may or may not start against the Phillies on Thursday. If it turns out to be his final start as a Nat, let’s just hope it doesn’t go the way Cole Hamels’ final start as a Phillie went.

Wake up, bats

Against the Braves, the Phillies received two excellent starts from their rotation (Let’s not talk about the other two games). And they needed those efforts, because the Phillies offense spent most of the weekend making an unimpressive Braves’ pitching staff look great.

The Nationals’ pitching staff is probably worse than the Braves, so it would be nice if the Phillies actually started scoring runs. The biggest culprit in the recent struggles has been a lack of success with runners in scoring position. That tends to fluctuate throughout a season, but it would be nice if it would start to fluctuate in the Phillies’ favor soon.

Trivia

Last series’ question: Former Braves (and future Phillies?) closer Craig Kimbrel has never allowed an earned run at Citizens Bank Park. If the Phillies do trade for him, let’s hope that continues. AlwaysSundayInPhilly with the correct answer.

This series’ question: Since their inception in 2005, three different Nationals players have had three multi-home run games against the Phillies. Name all three.

What to expect

  • The Phillies will score a bunch of runs against Tuesday’s starter Erick Fedde, because Citizens Bank Park has not traditionally been kind to him.
  • Juan Soto continues to thrive at Citizens Bank Park (Career 1.1.04 OPS!) and hits two home runs this series.
  • The Phillies will have another player placed on the COVID IL list. (If only there was an easy way to reduce the possibility of this happening!)

Closing thought that may or may not be relevant to the series

The Phillies have been linked to a lot of names on the trade market, but I think the top priority needs to be finding another starting pitcher. Right now, three-fifths of their rotation is Matt Moore, Spencer Howard, and Vince Velasquez. Unless the offense really picks it up, I don’t see how you can win with that.

If not, then they’d better reinforce the bullpen, because they’re going to have to cover an average of five innings every three out of five games. (And for some reason, it feels like Brandon Kintzler has been asked to cover most of them!)