What to Watch for: Washington Nationals at Philadelphia Phillies, April 10–12
by Mike Feigen
What to Watch for: Washington Nationals (1-2) at Philadelphia Phillies (1-2)
April 10–12, Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia
The Nationals and Phillies hook up for the first three of 19 match-ups during the 2015 season, seven of which will take place over the next 10 days. Both clubs got off to slow starts earlier this week, with Washington dropping two of three to the visiting New York Mets and Philadelphia doing the same against the Boston Red Sox.
Surprisingly, the 2014 NL East Champion Nationals went just 3-6 at Citizens Bank Park last season, including a three-game sweep in late August. However, two of the three Philadelphia starters from that series — A.J. Burnett and Kyle Kendrick — have since moved on to the Pirates and Rockies, respectively. Still, it’s so early in the year that it’s hard to place any added importance on this series. The Nationals know their offense is not yet at full strength, with Jayson Werth, Anthony Rendon and Denard Span due back over the next several weeks, so until then they will continue to focus on putting together good at-bats and playing strong fundamental defense behind their elite rotation.
FRIDAY, 7:05: LHP Gio Gonzalez (0-0, -.–) at RHP Jerome Williams (0-0, -.–)
SATURDAY, 7:05: RHP Doug Fister (0-0, -.–) at LHP Cole Hamels (0-1, 7.20)
SUNDAY, 1:35: RHP Max Scherzer (0-1, 0.00) at RHP Sean O’Sullivan 0-0, -.–)
Left-hander Gio Gonzalez and righty Doug Fister will each make their 2015 season debuts in the series, with Opening Day starter Max Scherzer pitching in the finale. Scherzer went 7.2 strong innings in the opener, allowing just six base runners while striking out eight, but suffered the loss after a pair of errors led to three unearned runs.
Philadelphia will counter with veteran right-hander Jerome Williams in the first game, southpaw Cole Hamels on regular rest on Saturday before concluding the series with right-hander Sean O’Sullivan against Scherzer on Sunday. Hamels was roughed up by the Red Sox on Opening Day, allowing four solo home runs in his five innings of work — after surrendering just 14 long balls in 204.2 innings in 2014.
Shortstop Jimmy Rollins has moved on to the Los Angeles Dodgers, marking a new era in Philadelphia baseball. The Phillies’ all-time hits leader had manned their shortstop position every year since 2001, four years before the Nationals moved to Washington. Long-time stars Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz still power the middle of the Phillies’ lineup, with veterans Grady Sizemore and Jeff Francoeur platooning in right field. Leadoff man Ben Revere gave the Nationals trouble at times in 2014.
The Nationals enter the series looking to capitalize on a late-game offensive spark in Thursday’s game against the Mets. Washington has pushed across just six runs in three games thus far, with Bryce Harper (.364/.417/.636), Michael A. Taylor (.308/.308/.462) and Ryan Zimmerman (two-run home run in Wednesday’s 2-1 victory) leading the offense. Ian Desmond, who doubled twice on Thursday afternoon, could be ready to break out this weekend.
The Best of the Rest
Should the Nationals and Phillies produce any tight ballgames, each team lays claim to advantages in the bullpen. The Nationals ‘pen has acquitted itself well to begin the season, with all seven relievers getting at least one appearance and none allowing a run to cross the plate. On the Phillies’ side, hard-throwing youngster Ken Giles and closer Jonathan Papelbon anchor the back end of the bullpen, though Giles walked three batters in two-thirds of an inning in his first action of the season.
Here are tonight’s game notes, courtesy of the Washington Nationals Baseball Communications department: