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Low-hanging fruit: Phillies vs. Nationals series preview

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The Nats have given up on 2021. Can the Phillies take advantage?

MLB: JUL 29 Nationals at Phillies Game 2
The Phillies shouldn’t need late-game heroics from Brad Miller to beat the Nats
Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Phillies previous two series were against teams that were in definitive sell mode before the trade deadline. Both the Nationals and Pirates traded away just about everything that wasn’t bolted down as a signal that they were giving up on 2021 (and probably longer) with hope that tomorrow could be a little brighter. That should have resulted in easy wins for the Phillies, but instead they went just 3-4 (and two of those wins required last inning comebacks!).

The Phillies will get another crack at the Nats this week. Can they take advantage of a team that isn’t trying to win? Or are we due for more frustrating losses as the Phillies continue to refuse to make a move in the very-winnable National League East?

Washington Nationals

Record: 49-56 (Fourth place in National League East)

The last time they met

The teams played a four-game series last week which saw the Phillies twice win via walk-off home run. That sounds great, except that you can’t count on getting those all that often, and there’s a strong case to be made that the Phillies should have actually been swept.

What’s new with the Nationals

Max Scherzer and Trea Turner are both ex-Nationals. So are Kyle Schwarber, Brad Hand, and Daniel Hudson. Oh, and also Yan Gomes, Josh Harrison, and Jon Lester. (When the Nats sell, they SELL.)

So who do the Nationals have left? There’s Yadiel Hernandez who hit two home runs on Sunday, Patrick Corbin and his SiX yEAr DeAL, and of course Juan Soto, who is probably really happy about having to carry the remnants of this team. I’m sure he’s eagerly anticipating the day when the team offers him a contract extension full of deferred money.

Ranger and the rotation

The Phillies entered the season hoping to fill two of their rotation spots with a combination of Matt Moore, Chase Anderson, Vince Velasquez, and Spencer Howard. I suppose it wasn’t insane to think that at least one of those guys would prove capable of being a viable major league starter (I talked myself into Anderson), but apparently when you shop at the thrift shop, you often end up with a rotation than smells like R. Kelly’s sheets.

And that’s why Monday’s scheduled starter is Ranger Suarez. You may remember Suarez as an effective reliever somewhat miscast as the team’s closer. Because the Phillies decision-makers have little sense of object permanence, they’ve decided that the best way to fix the rotation was to insert Suarez into it. Keep in mind that Suarez isn’t stretched out (he’s going to go for a maximum of three innings on Monday), and his stuff doesn’t necessarily profile as a good starter.

Oh, and even though they just traded for a starter and inserted their closer into their rotation, they will still need to start either Anderson or Velasquez on Wednesday. Any word on Zach Eflin’s status?

Ugh. See you in September (maybe), Zach.

Phillies gonna Phillie

Remember when the Phillies dropped hints that they were prepared to go over the luxury tax if needed?

As it turns out, the Phillies did not go over the tax threshold. In fact, as part of their trade with the Rangers, they received money from Texas for the explicit purpose of avoiding the tax. And all it cost them was an additional prospect or two.

I’m not claiming to know much about Kevin Gowdy or Josh Gessne. But there’s always the possibility that they could become productive major leaguers, and at the very least, that’s two fewer trade chips the Phillies will possess going forward. All so the owners could save some money.

Throughout recent history, whether they’re buyers or sellers, there’s one constant with Phillies trades: If there’s a choice between money and prospects, they will always pay the price in prospects.

Trivia

Last series’ answer: Jimmy Rollins is the only Phillie to have a multi-homer game at Citizens Bank Park. Sigh, Old with the correct answer.

This series’ question: The Phillies clinched the 2010 National League East title at Nationals Park on September 27. Both the winning (obviously) and losing pitchers would pitch for the Phillies during their careers. Name them.

What to expect

  • Bryce Harper will homer in front of his former fans, and people on Twitter will still complain he isn’t “earning his pay.”
  • With the looming prospect of Freddy Gavis taking away playing time, both Didi Gregorius and Alec Bohm have a strong series.
  • Someone we’ve never heard of on the Nats will get a key hit, leading to angsty cries of “We’re losing to a Triple A team!”

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

I’m just hoping that Ian Kennedy worked out his kinks on Sunday in a low-pressure spot, and we don’t have another Brandon Workman on our hands.