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MLB: Washington Nationals at Philadelphia Phillies
Erick Fedde on the mound usually means good things for the Phillies
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Can’t win them all, but gotta win most: Phillies vs. Nationals series preview

The Phillies could solidify their playoff standing with a big series

After an awful road trip, the Phillies needed to take care of business at home against the Miami Marlins. And they largely did that, by winning two out of the three games, even though they probably should have won the third game as well.

The Phillies now have three games against the worst team in the National League. The Nats are playing a little better lately, and it’s tough to expect a sweep of even the worst teams. Still, every game they don’t win against this team feels like a wasted opportunity.

Washington Nationals

Record: 49-89 (Fifth place in National League East, 38 games back)

The last time they met

The Nats visited Philadelphia in early August and were swept in a four-game series. The series got more one-sided as it went on, with the Phillies increasing their margin in every game, culminating in a 13-1 drubbing in the series finale.

Since then?

The Nats haven’t been all that bad since that series, going 13-15. I know that’s nothing special, but considering how awful they looked against the Phillies, being anywhere near .500 is an accomplishment. They actually have a winning record in their last ten games, so they’re probably not just going to roll over this weekend.

Game by game preview

Changing up the format a bit, I’ll take an individual look at each game in the series

Game 1: Friday, 7:05 PM - Noah Syndergaard vs. Patrick Corbin

A few years ago, this would have been seen as a good pitching matchup. It is not seen that way today. Corbin has been one of the worst pitchers in baseball, and didn’t make it out of the first inning the last time he faced the Phillies.

However, he’s been solid in his last three starts. That’s more than I can say of Syndergaard who has been knocked around a bit in his last two outings.

Game 2 - Saturday, 6:05 PM - Ranger Suarez vs. Erick Fedde

Ranger Suarez has had a weird season. After missing much of Spring Training, he got off to a slow start. Then, he seemed to find his groove. And then, in his past few outings, he gets off to a good start and then inexplicably forgets how to throw strikes in the middle innings. Seeing how the Phillies’ current bullpen options don’t fill me with much confidence at the moment, it would be great if he could continue to throw strikes this time around.

It would also help if the Phillies scored as many runs as they could against Erick Fedde. Somehow, they’ve avoided facing him this year, which is a shame because he’s both not good, and the Phillies have dominated him over the past two years. Since the start of the 2020 season, Fedde has a 7.11 ERA against the Phillies.

Game 3 - Sunday, 1:05 PM - Aaron Nola vs. Anibal Sanchez

At age 38, after missing the entire 2021 season, Anibal Sanchez has returned to the Nats’ rotation. And he’s actually pitching pretty well, giving up just two earned runs over his past four starts.

Still, this is 38-year-old Anibal Sanchez! Even missing Nick Castellanos, the Phillies should be able to hit him. Of course, it would help if their MVP designated hitter found his hitting stroke sooner rather than later. I understand that he rushed his return, and his oblique may or may not be bugging him, but he needs to start producing soon.

As for Aaron Nola, he pitched well last time out. Wouldn’t it be nice if he could actually pitch two straight strong games in September? He’s facing a Nats lineup that doesn’t look impressive on paper, but they’ve averaged almost six runs per game over their last ten.

Trivia

Last series’ answer: Marlins who have stolen multiple bases in a single game against the Phillies since the start of 2012 are Jose Reyes, Juan Pierre, Dee Gordon (did it four times), Ichiro(!), J.T. Realmuto, and Jon Berti. SLDH was the first to name three.

This series’ question: The Phillies have dominated the Nats since they won the World Series in 2019. There have been two four-hit games by Phillies players against the Nats in that time. Name the two players.

Non-Phillies thought

As promised last time, here’s my Eagles’ prediction.

The Phillies were somewhat lucky (they stayed healthy, their opponents did not) in winning nine games in 2021. That might not continue this year, but they have pretty solid depth, and undoubtedly improved (on paper at least) in the offseason. Perhaps more importantly, I feel the young players who could improve outnumber the veterans who could decline.

The big question is the quarterback. I’m far from sold on Jalen Hurts as a long-term answer, but I think his running ability gives him a fairly high floor that should keep the team from falling apart, especially considering the talent surrounding him on offense. If he improves even slightly from last year, this should be an 11-win team.

I’ll go with 11-6 and an NFC East title. The Cowboys appear to have taken a step back, and although the Commanders and Giants will likely be better than last year, I don’t see them making too much noise. In a weak NFC, they’ll probably win a playoff game, but anything past that will hinge on Hurts making a bigger than expected leap.

Closing thought

Even with their less-than-stellar play over the past couple of weeks, the Phillies are still in very good position to make the playoffs. As I said, I can’t expect them to win every game against the Nationals, but anything less than two wins would be bad.

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