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Are we back? Phillies vs. Nationals series preview

Are we finally getting the Phillies’ offense that we were promised?

Kansas City Royals v Philadelphia Phillies
Somebody please explain Nick Castellanos’ July to me
Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

The series against the Royals saw the Phillies average over seven runs per game. They got important home runs from the players who should be hitting important home runs, and the offense looked a lot like the offense we thought we were going to get before the season began.

Was that just a case of the Phillies taking advantage of a bad Royals’ pitching staff, or are the Phillies’ hitters finally playing up to their capabilities? Hopefully it’s the latter, although given the state of their next opponent’s pitching, we might not get a definite answer this week.

Washington Nationals

Record: 49-63, Fifth place in National League East (22.5 games back)

The last time they met

The Phillies won the middle game of a three-game series 19-4. Unfortunately, the bats were mostly quiet in the other two, which were won by the Nationals.

Since then?

Thanks to their current four-game winning streak, the Nationals have actually put up a winning record since their last series against the Phillies. They swept the Reds over the weekend which both helps the Phillies out (the Reds are also fighting for a Wild Card spot) and serves as a warning not to take them too lightly.

This will be the second straight series where the Phillies will take on a last place team that enters on a winning streak. They managed to win the series against the Royals, so we’ll see if they can similarly halt the Nats’ momentum.

Who’s hot?

Former Phillies farmhand Joey Meneses’ strong second half of 2022 hasn’t carried over to this season, but he’s been good lately, putting up an OPS of .884 with three home runs over the past couple of weeks.

Who’s not?

Patrick Corbin continues to be one of the worst starting pitchers in baseball and has an ERA of 5.89 over his last three starts. I know he helped the Nats win a World Series, and flags fly forever, but sheesh.

As for the rest of the staff

Here are the other starting pitchers the Phillies will face:

Trevor Williams - A veteran mediocrity who the Phillies have already faced twice this season. He gave up seven runs in 10.2 innings across those two starts, although he did manage to win one of them. If the Phillies’ offense is truly back on track, this is the type of pitcher they should be able to succeed against.

Josiah Gray - He was one of the worst pitchers in baseball in 2022 but has broken out in 2023 and made the All-Star Game. He’s had mixed results in his two prior starts against the Phillies. In the first, they hit two home runs off him. In the second, he struck out eight and allowed only one run in six innings.

MacKenzie Gore - The second-year lefty was the starting pitcher for the Phillies’ 19-4 shellacking of the Nats back in July. This might be an opportune time for newly added outfielder Weston Wilson to get his first career start.

All quiet?

The trade deadline was a seller’s market, so it seems strange that a non-contender that is still probably a couple of years away wouldn’t be more active. The Nats did ship out Jeimer Candelario, but Lane Thomas and Kyle Finnegan are still Nationals despite drawing some interest. Given that Thomas would have been a decent addition to the Phillies’ outfield, you have to wonder what the Nats’ asking price was.

Is Trea fixed?

There was a lot of debate about the loud ovations given to Trea Turner over the weekend, but he had one of his best series of the year. There have been several moments throughout the season where Turner came up in a big spot, and I talked myself into thinking that THIS would be the time when he came through. In almost every one of them, he did not.

This might be purely hindsight talking, but when he came to the plate in the sixth inning of Saturday’s game, it looked like his body language was different. He’s had many at bats where you watched him and thought he was out before he even stepped into the box.

But on Saturday, I got the impression that he knew this was his moment, and he wasn’t going to fail.

He had a quiet game on Sunday (1-4 with two strikeouts) so maybe he hasn’t quite snapped into superstar mode yet. But a series against his former team would be a good chance to show that he has put the worst of it behind him.

And then there’s Nick

Nick Castellanos has been on fire since August began, and I think we’ll one day need a documentary explaining why in the midst of an otherwise good season, he spent one month being the worst player in baseball.

Smarty’s tournament of randomness

The votes have been tallied and the winner of the tournament of randomness is...

Eric Bruntlett’s unassisted triple play!

Due to the rarity of an unassisted triple play, it makes perfect sense that it would be the winner of a tournament of random things.

Thanks to everyone who voted! Now that the tournament has come to a close, I’ll need a new feature for home series. If you have any good suggestions, please leave them in the comments.


Last series’ answer: Jorge Soler hit a home run against the Phillies as a member of the Royals in 2019, and did the same as a Marlin last week. EbbyCalvinLaLoosh got it first.

This series’ question: In the Bruntlett triple play game, the Phillies took a 6-0 lead in the first inning thanks in part to home runs by which two players?

Closing thought

Many of the other Wild Card contenders have fallen on hard times lately. If the Phillies can keep beating the teams that they should beat, they might actually start to pull away.

Then again, this is the Phillies. Since when do they ever make anything easy?

Rise and Phight: 10/2/2023

Bring on Tuesday: Phillies 9, Mets 1

Gamethread 10/1: Phillies at Mets