December 9, 2023

Series Preview: Nationals at Phillies, June 5 – 7


AP Photo/Matt Slocum

The Phillies are one game out of the third Wild Card spot, and things are getting exciting in South Philadelphia. The Phillies shut out the Cardinals to lock the series win on national television Sunday evening. The sold-out crowd in Philadelphia was gifted two fireworks shows—one honoring the birth of our country and one from the Philadelphia Fightin’ Phillies.

Now, the Phillies will host the Washington Nationals for the next three days before heading west to meet the Cardinals once again.

Here are some things to note heading into the series:

Last time they met

The Phils and Nats went head-to-head in a five-game (yes, five) series in Washington D.C. in the middle of June. The Phillies were coming off a series win against the Marlins, and they continued playing well throughout the entire series in D.C. They took four of five from the Nationals. Outside of the game-five loss, the offense and bullpen were excellent, leading the Phillies to the big series win.

Outside of Josh Bell, the Nationals’ offense was not too impressive. Bell had all the big hits, and the Phillies did a great job keeping the top of the Nationals lineup under control. Juan Soto recorded just two hits in 19 at-bats through the five games.

Now, about three weeks later, the Phillies have won six of their last ten and are four games over .500. This puts them around the same spot since they were also four games over .500 when they left the Capital.

The importance of the starters

Although the Phillies’ bullpen has been excellent as of late, they are also very ready for the all-star break. They had a day off yesterday, but the injuries of Ranger Suarez and Zach Eflin have made the ‘pen very busy in the last week. In the Cardinals series, the Phillies’ bullpen threw 12 innings. Rob Thomson used five relievers Friday, five relievers Saturday, and two on Sunday.

And with Christopher Sanchez starting game one, the bullpen could be busy once again.

While nobody is expecting Sanchez to throw a complete game, the Phillies could use at least five innings out of him. This would allow the Phillies to stay away from their long man, giving him an extra day of rest with Bailey Falter on the mound for the third game of the set.

Staying hot

Rhys Hoskins took home the honor of NL Player of the Week for the first week of July. The first baseman hit four home runs during that span and sported an OPS of 1.678, both being the best in the National League. Historically, Hoskins has hit well against the Nationals, and it would be nice if that could continue heading into this three-game set. If Hoskins can stay consistent, he can help fill the huge gap in the Phillies’ lineup with Bryce Harper out indefinitely.

Jump on ’em early

It is needless to say that the Nationals’ starting rotation is horrendous. Josiah Gray, a young right-hander, is considered the “ace” of the Nationals, but he has not been performing up to the standards of an ace so far in 2022.

With Anibal Sanchez, Joe Ross, and perennial all-star Stephen Strasburg on the IL, the Nationals have a very weak starting rotation. Paolo Espino has good numbers on paper, but only four of his 24 appearances came as a starter.

So, if the Phillies do not find success early against the Nats’ starters, they might be in for some trouble. The Nationals do not have big names in their bullpen, but they have not been as bad as they are stereotyped to be. Kyle Finnegan has a 3.94 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 32 innings, and Carl Edwards, Jr. has a 3.72 ERA in 25 games. Tanner Rainey and Steve Cishek provide some depth as middle relievers, and Reed Garrett and Andres Machado have not been horrible either.

While Washington’s bullpen is not strong enough to carry them through a season, it is surely something to watch out for if the Phillies struggle early in games.

Pitching matchups

Game 1: Christopher Sanchez (LHP, 0-1, 4.6 ERA) vs. Paolo Espino (RHP, 0-1, 2.8 ERA)

Game 2: Aaron Nola (RHP, 5-5, 3.13 ERA) vs. Josiah Gray (RHP, 6-5, 4.22 ERA)

Game 3: Bailey Falter (LHP, 0-2, 4.88 ERA) vs. TBD

The numbers

  • Run Differential:
  • Phillies: 45
  • Nationals: -118
  • Runs Scored Per Game:
  • Phillies: 4.81
  • Nationals: 3.99
  • Runs Allowed Per Game:
  • Phillies: 4.25
  • Nationals: 5.43

Game times and broadcasts

  • Tuesday, July 5, at 7:05pm ET on NBC Sports Philadelphia, WTTM 1680, 94.1 WIP
  • Wednesday, July 6, at 7:05pm ET on NBC Sports Philadelphia, WTTM 1680, 94.1 WIP
  • Thursday, July 7, at 4:05pm ET on NBC Sports Philadelphia, WTTM 1680, 94.1 WIP

Game coverage will be provided on Philly Sports Reports’ and Bell Ringers’ Twitter page.

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