The Philadelphia Phillies got a shaky start and little offensive production Thursday as they missed a chance to cut into their NL East deficit. It’s hard to imagine those struggles continuing when they welcome in the Washington Nationals.
A colossal pitching mismatch appears to be on tap for Friday’s opener at Citizens Bank Park, where the Phillies look for a sixth straight win from Roy Halladay(notes) while trying to add to Nationals right-hander Jason Marquis’(notes) misery.
Washington topped Atlanta 6-2 on Thursday afternoon, giving Philadelphia (68-52) a chance to pull within 1 1/2 games of the division-leading Braves.
The Phillies failed to take advantage Thursday night. Philadelphia had one hit through eight innings against San Francisco’s Jonathan Sanchez(notes), and a mild rally in the ninth went for naught in a 5-2 defeat.
The Phillies haven’t lost consecutive games since dropping their final two of July at Washington, but it would be a major surprise if the Nationals (52-69) can saddle the NL champs with another set of back-to-back losses.
Halladay (15-8, 2.24 ERA) has won his last five starts, allowing one run or fewer in four of them. He lowered his ERA to 2.24 - third-best in the majors - by holding the Mets to four hits over eight innings Saturday in a 4-0 victory at Citi Field.
“It’s just a matter of maintaining that,” Halladay told the Phillies’ official website. “I always feel like when you get closer to the end of the season—especially being in (a pennant race)—you get a little bit of a boost. Hopefully that’s something I’ll get.”
Halladay’s lone start at Washington this season was also his first with Philadelphia. The right-hander gave up one run and six hits while striking out nine over seven innings of an 11-1 opening-day win.
He’s won five straight starts against the Nationals franchise since its days in Montreal, compiling a 1.82 ERA in those outings.
Rodriguez’s biggest concern Friday, though, might be his own batterymate. Marquis (0-5, 14.33) has failed to make it through the fifth inning of any of his five starts this season.
The right-hander gave up five runs and seven hits - three homers - over four innings of Saturday’s 9-2 loss to Arizona in his second start since returning from an elbow injury that had sidelined him since April.
“You want to go out there and give your team a chance to compete and not embarrass yourself,” Marquis said. “It’s eating me alive inside.”
The Phillies are largely responsible for Marquis’ inflated ERA. His first two starts of 2010 came against Philadelphia, and he allowed 13 runs over 8 1-3 innings in those outings.
Chase Utley(notes) and Jayson Werth(notes) should be especially excited to see him again. Utley is 11 for 23 (.478) with a homer against Marquis, while Werth is 6 for 12 with two homers and two doubles.
Utley has led the Phillies to a 15-3 mark in their last 18 home games versus Washington, hitting .387 with six homers and 18 RBIs as Philadelphia has won all six series in that stretch.