December 2, 2023

Family Reunion! Oh, wait—Series Preview: Nationals at Phillies, July 7 – 10


Photo via NBC Philadelphia

This week could have been a fun 2018 Nationals reunion, but no! Mike Rizzo decided to cancel the party, and luckily for us, Trea Turner and Bryce Harper decided to come to our rager instead. Not one player from the 2018 Nationals other than Victor Robles has made an appearance for Washington in 2023. Max Scherzer is with the Rangers, Juan Soto is with the Padres, and Anthony Rendon is an L.A. Angel. Stephen Strasburg and Sean Doolittle remain in the Nats’ organization, but neither have appeared in a game this season.

Now, Victor Robles and the last-place Nationals are coming to town for the first time since the very beginning of July, and the Phillies will look to take advantage of a team with the third-worst record in the National League.

Breaking Down The Playoff Picture

As of today, seven teams in the National League are in contention for the three NL Wild Card spots, and nobody is out of (or definitely in) the picture. The Phillies and the San Francisco Giants, both of whom are 61-51, are three games ahead of the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds for the first and second Wild Card spots. The Miami Marlins are just .5 games back of the final Wild Card spot, while the Arizona Diamondbacks are a game behind the Marlins. The San Diego Padres were seemingly out of contention two weeks ago, but a pre-deadline hot streak prompted the Padres’ front office to make major-league additions before August 1. Despite their 55-57 record, San Diego is just three games out of the third and final Wild Card spot in the NL.

In short, with many of the Wild Card teams struggling as of late, it’s crucial for the Phillies to use this four-game set to comfortably distance themselves from the aforementioned teams in contention.

Last Time They Met

The Phils and Nationals last squared off in a series that spanned from June 30 to July 2, and it turned out to be a disappointing one for the Fightins’. Following a series win versus the New York Mets and a road sweep of the Cubs, the Phillies dropped game one of the series despite a strong outing from Christopher Sanchez. They evened out the series the next day with a commanding 19-4 victory led by Kyle Schwarber, Nick Castellanos, and Alec Bohm. A day later, the Phillies blew a three-run after Stone Garrett hit a go-ahead grand slam, and the Phils ultimately dropped the rubber match.

Since then, the Phillies are 17-12, and they most recently picked up a series win over the Kansas City Royals. The Nationals are coming into this series with a four-game winning streak thanks to a sweep of the Reds over the weekend.

Sharpen the Starters

Yes, the Phillies took two of three against the Royals, but their starting pitchers certainly could have been better.

Aaron Nola continued to struggle in his most recent start against the Royals—he has now allowed 13 runs in his last three games. Christopher Sanchez kept many of his pitches up in the zone, and the Royals were all over him. The six runs he allowed over five innings of work inflated his season ERA from 2.66 to 3.44, and he remains winless on the season. Taijuan Walker struggled early, but he eventually rebounded and gave the Phillies and their winded bullpen seven innings of work. Regardless, he still allowed four runs in the first 1.2 innings to a team that came into the series averaging under 3.9 runs per game.

As we know, pitching wins championships, so it’s critical that the Phillies’ starters get back on track before the playoffs begin. With the Phillies’ six-man rotation, only three will likely have a significant impact in the playoffs as a starter, and if Rob Thomson had to choose his rotation, in order, right now, some very tricky decisions would have to be made. Aaron Nola came into the season as the Phillies’ second-best pitcher, and now he is statistically their worst. When the Phillies acquired Michael Lorenzen, many people thought he’d be moved to the bullpen, but he ended up being the first Phillies pitcher to throw eight innings since Taijuan Walker on June 16. And Christopher Sanchez has been the most surprising Phillie of all this season.

Sure, it would be unorthodox to have Cris Sanchez start a postseason game for the Phillies while Aaron Nola sits in the bullpen, yet unorthodox is exactly how this season has gone so far.

Please note that game one of this series was initially scheduled for Monday, July 7, but it was postponed due to inclement weather, hence the doubleheader on Tuesday.

Game Times and Broadcasts

  • Tuesday, August 8, at 4:05pm ET on NBC Sports Philadelphia, WTTM 1680 (Spanish), and 94.1 WIP
  • Tuesday, August 8, at about 7:35pm ET on NBC Sports Philadelphia, WTTM 1680 (Spanish), and 94.1 WIP
  • Wednesday, August 9, at 6:40pm ET on NBC Sports Philadelphia, WTTM 1680 (Spanish), and 94.1 WIP
  • Thursday, August 10, at 6:40pm ET on MLB Network, NBC Sports Philadelphia, WTTM 1680 (Spanish), and 94.1 WIP

Pitching Matchups

Game 1: Zack Wheeler (RHP, 8-5, 3.71 ERA) vs. Trevor Williams (RHP, 5-6, 4.72 ERA)

Game 2: Ranger Suarez (LHP, 2-5, 4.01 ERA) vs. Josiah Gray (RHP, 7-9, 3.54 ERA)

Game 3: Michael Lorenzen (RHP, 6-7, 3.48 ERA) vs. MacKenzie Gore (LHP, 6-8, 4.34 ERA)

Game 4: Aaron Nola (RHP, 9-8, 4.58 ERA) vs. Patrick Corbin (LHP, 7-11, 5.03 ERA)

By the Numbers

  • Run Differential
  • Phillies: 18
  • Nationals: -83
  • Runs Scored Per Game
  • Phillies: 4.56
  • Nationals: 4.35
  • Runs Allowed Per Game
  • Phillies: 4.4
  • Nationals: 5.09

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

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