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Non-marquee pitching matchups ahead: Phillies vs. Nationals series preview

We won’t see too many All-Star candidates taking the mound this week

Philadelphia Phillies v Washington Nationals
Josiah Gray is about as good as it gets for Nationals starters
Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

After taking two out of three against the Cardinals, the Phillies welcome the Nationals to town. The Phillies have largely had the Nationals number lately, and based on the scheduled starters for the series, the Phillies should be able to earn some wins this week.

Washington Nationals

Record: 29-53 (Fifth place in National League East, 22 games back)

The last time they met

These teams met up for a five-game set in DC last month. The Phillies won the first four but faltered in the series finale on Father’s Day. The finale was televised exclusively on Peacock, which made a bunch of fans angry that they couldn’t watch the game on the holiday without spending an additional $5. Those who did pony up for the Peacock were even angrier as the Phillies rewarded them with an awful effort.

Since then?

The Nationals are 5-7 since that series and have lost their five games. (Even though it would probably be better for the Nationals to have won those games, it's kind of nice to see other teams in the division struggle against the Marlins)

Who’s cold?

Phillies fans are well familiar with Maikel Franco’s cold spells, and he is certainly in the midst of one right now. Over the past two weeks, he is batting .100 with a .200 slugging percentage. Franco used to be good for 20+ home runs a season, but he’s only hit seven in 307 plate appearances. And no, his ability to take a walk or play strong defense have not increased to compensate for the lack of power.

Not the best pitching matchups ever scheduled

If you’re looking for duels between top starting pitchers, this might not be the series for you. Two-fifths of the Phillies’ starting rotation is on the injured list, which means Christopher Sanchez will be recalled from the minors to start the opener, and Bailey Falter will presumably pitch the finale.

Sanchez isn’t stretched out and hasn’t pitched more than four innings in any appearance yet this year. Falter is theoretically able to pitch deeper, but the team doesn’t seem inclined to give him much rope. That might have to change going forward because giving too many innings to the Phillies’ bullpen doesn’t seem like a formula for success. (It would be really nice if Aaron Nola can pitch into the eighth on Wednesday.)

The good news is that the Phillies are playing the Nationals, who don’t have a Nola to rely on. The first two games will be started by Paolo Espino - the Nats’ own version of a reliever who has been moved to the rotation, and Josiah Gray - a cromulent starting pitcher, who gave the Phillies’ lineup some trouble when he faced them before. It isn’t clear who will pitch the finale, since Jackson Tetreault was just placed on the injured list. The Nats may resort to a bullpen game, which is probably not a good thing for them, considering their relievers have the second highest team ERA in baseball.

But wait, is the Phillies’ bullpen good now?

The Phillies’ bullpen has actually been somewhat of a bright spot in recent weeks. If you only count relievers who don’t have the last name Familia - and let’s hope that soon becomes reality - the bullpen has performed downright competently. Freed from the closer role, Corey Knebel seems to have rediscovered his effectiveness, and don’t look now, but Jose Alvarado has become somewhat reliable (seven straight scoreless innings)

This isn’t to say the Phillies shouldn’t seek out other relief options on the trade market, but it’s nice that we don’t have to hold our breath every time the starting pitcher leaves the game.


Last series’ answer: Yadier Molina leads the Cardinals franchise with 46 hits at Citizens Bank Park. GBrettFan got it right.

This series’ question: Who was the first player in Nationals history to have a multi-home run game against the Phillies?

Non-Phillies thought

Independence Day fell on a Monday, giving most of us a three-day holiday weekend, but also served to make the return to work on Tuesday that much more difficult. It’s been especially tough for me coming off a week-long vacation. (I know, poor me!)

In general, I think I prefer my three-day weekends to come via a Friday off rather than a Monday. Having a Friday off simply feels like a bonus day, but when you have Monday off, enjoyment is limited due to the specter of reality looming the following day.

Closing thought

The Phillies have held their own against some decent competition these past couple of weeks. Facing a lesser opponent in the Nationals, they can’t afford to take it easy. They’ve consistently beaten the Nats the past few years, and if they want to inch closer to a playoff spot, that needs to continue this week.