As the Washington Nationals head into the home stretch of their surprising season, they still have plenty of opportunities to measure themselves against their longtime nemesis, the Philadelphia Phillies. The upstart Nats have nine games remaining on the schedule against the once-mighty Phillies, beginning with three games this weekend at Citizens Bank Park.
While the Nats continue to roll along with baseball's best record, the five-time defending division champion Phillies are mired in a disastrous season. But the Phils have been playing better baseball lately, and will have the chance to play the spoiler.
Washington Nationals at Philadelphia Phillies
Friday, August 24, 7:05 p.m. EDT
Edwin Jackson (7-8, 3.69) vs. Kyle Kendrick (6-9, 4.20)
Saturday, August 25, 7:05 p.m. EDT
Gio Gonzalez (16-6, 3.23) vs. Roy Halladay (7-7, 3.95)
Sunday, August 26, 1:35 p.m. EDT
Stephen Strasburg (15-5, 2.85) vs. Cliff Lee (2-7, 3.78)
Season Series: The Nationals are 5-4 against the Phillies. Following this series, the teams will also face off six times in the final nine days of the season.
The Nationals have shown no signs of slowing down, sitting 30 games over .500 and burying all but the Atlanta Braves in the NL East. Coming off a homestand in which they took 2-of-3 against both the Mets and Braves, and now heading to Philadelphia and Miami, this stretch of divisional games is beginning to look like a victory lap before we even reach September. Jayson Werth is back from the DL to face his former team, while the pitching staff is the best in baseball with a 3.23 ERA.
The Phillies' run of division championships appears to have ended in tatters, with a 19 and a half game deficit in the standings. The season began in trouble with Ryan Howard and Chase Utley injured, it went steadily downhill, and the team waved the white flag when they dumped two-thirds of their outfield at the trade deadline. The Phils are taking a look at some younger players, but there's also still plenty to fear in the line-up, and the rotation still includes Halladay, Lee and Cole Hamels. They've won or split their last four series.
The Nationals are in uncharted territory, trying to win their first division title since arriving in D.C., and eying the possibility of hosting the first playoff game in Washington since the Senators were in the 1933 World Series. But they haven't yet shaken the Braves, and there's still more than a month left in the season. The Phillies will be frequent opponents down the stretch and they can be expected to put up a fight.
The pitching matchups are intriguing for each game of the series. The Nats will start Edwin Jackson -- coming off an 11-strikeout performance -- followed by the top of the rotation in Gonzalez and Strasburg. While they won't have to face Hamels, Kendrick has been on a roll and Halladay and Lee are starting to look fearsome again. The Phillies are in an unusual place in the standings, and the roster won't look familiar, but they've been the gold standard in the division and will test the first-place Nats.
KW Rosenfeld is a lifelong baseball fan who visited every major league ballpark in the summer of 1991. A longtime resident of Northern Virginia, he's still thankful that baseball has returned to D.C.
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