December 2, 2023

Keep the Streak Alive—Series Preview: Nationals at Phillies, June 30 – July 2


Brad Mills/USA TODAY

The Phillies have been streaky all season. They’ll lose a few in a row, win a few in a row, then play as average as average can be for the next few days to follow. Having won four in a row and seven of their last ten, it seems the Phillies are due for a rough patch.

Sitting at a season-high six games above .500, the Phillies are returning home to face the Washington Nationals in a three-game weekend series, beginning on Friday. The Phillies have not yet won more than six games in a row, but with the 32-48 Nats coming to town, the Phillies have a legitimate shot to extend their winning streak to seven games.

Last Time They Met

The Phillies and Nationals last squared off at the beginning of June, and the Phillies took two of three despite a demoralizing game-one loss, where the Phils lost on Lane Thomas’ go-ahead single in the bottom of the eighth inning. Zack Wheeler, who allowed seven runs in just 3.2 innings of work, had one of his worst starts of the season.

In games two and three, the Phillies were led to victory by their bullpen—which allowed four runs in eleven innings—and huge offensive performances from Kyle Schwarber, J.T. Realmuto, and Bryce Harper.

Since then, the Phillies have won six out of the seven series they have played, while the Nationals have just eight wins in the month of June. The Nats have been playing better in their last ten games, however, as they are 5-5 over that span and have won two straight games.

Here are two things that must happen if the Phillies want to keep their winning streak alive:

Strong Production from the Bottom of the Lineup

Three-run home runs have not come in abundance for the Phillies this year. Matter of fact, they have hit just four all season. With your biggest home run hitter at the top of the lineup, there’s only one reasonable conclusion—the bottom of the lineup is not being as productive as it needs to be.

Of course, injuries have derailed some of the Phillies’ plans, but it is still paramount that the players who fill those roles are competent enough to be in a major-league lineup. First baseman Kody Clemens has hit just .203 this month, and Edmundo Sosa has a .176 batting average in his last thirty games.

So what happens if the bottom of the lineup produces? Simple: they win! In game one of the series against the Cubs, the three guys at the bottom of the lineup—outfielder Brandon Marsh, Clemens, and backup catcher Garrett Stubbs—reached base a combined six times, helping the Phillies earn a 5-1 win at Wrigley Field. In the Phillies’ two losses against the Braves, though, Alec Bohm, the seven-hole hitter, and Kody Clemens, the eight-hole hitter, were a combined 1-15 with four strikeouts.

Zack Wheeler Turns it Around

Zack Wheeler has had an up-and-down 2023 season, and one of his lowest points came at the beginning of June against the Washington Nationals. In 3.2 innings, Wheeler allowed seven runs on eight hits, walked one batter, and struck out just three. Throughout the start, Wheeler had trouble commanding his breaking ball, and his fastball velocity was inconsistent ranging from 95 miles per hour to 99 miles per hour.

All season, Wheeler’s narrative has been centered around how unlucky he has been. His xERA is .45 lower than his actual season ERA, and he has allowed some untimely bloop singles in many of his 16 starts. This said, the most concerning takeaway from his rough start in Washington was the amount of hard-hit balls Wheeler allowed. Nine balls were hit with an exit velocity over 98 miles per hour; Josiah Gray, who pitched all the way into the sixth inning, only allowed six hard-hit balls.

Wheeler will get the nod to start game two of the three-game series at Citizens Bank Park.

Here’s the Phillies’ lineup for game one:

  1. Kyle Schwarber LF
  2. Trea Turner SS
  3. Nick Castellanos RF
  4. Bryce Harper DH
  5. J.T. Realmuto C
  6. Bryson Stott 2B
  7. Alec Bohm 3B
  8. Brandon Marsh CF
  9. Kody Clemens 1B

Game Times and Broadcasts

  • Friday, June 30, at 6:05pm ET on NBC Sports Philadelphia, WTTM 1680 (Spanish), and 94.1 WIP
  • Saturday, July 1, at 4:05pm ET on NBC Sports Philadelphia, WTTM 1680 (Spanish), and 94.1 WIP
  • Sunday, July 29, at 1:35pm ET on NBC Sports Philadelphia, WTTM 1680 (Spanish), and 94.1 WIP

Pitching Matchups

Game 1: Christopher Sanchez (LHP, 0-1, 4.05 ERA) vs. Josiah Gray (RHP, 5-6, 3.43 ERA)

Game 2: Zack Wheeler (RHP, 6-4, 3.86 ERA) vs. MacKenzie Gore (LHP, 4-6, 3.89 ERA)

Game 3: Ranger Suarez (LHP, 2-2, 3.18 ERA) vs. Trevor Williams (RHP, 4-4, 4.28 ERA)

By the Numbers

  • Run Differential
  • Phillies: -7
  • Nationals: -62
  • Runs Scored Per Game
  • Phillies: 4.41
  • Nationals: 4.16
  • Runs Allowed Per Game
  • Phillies: 4.5
  • Nationals: 4.94

Game coverage will be available on Philly Sports Reports’ Twitter page.

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