Nationals-Phillies Preview

The Associated PressSeptember 26, 2012

Clinging to a faint playoff hope, the Philadelphia Phillies picked up a crucial win in their series opener with the NL East-leading Washington Nationals.

With John Lannan set to take the ball for the division leaders Wednesday night, history seems to be on the Phillies' side for another victory.

Philadelphia hopes to continue to make things difficult on Lannan and further delay the Nationals' shot at wrapping up their first East title at Citizens Bank Park.

After dropping two of three to Atlanta over the weekend, the Phillies (78-76) defeated Washington 6-3 on Tuesday to remain 5 1/2 games back of St. Louis for the NL's second wild-card spot with eight to play. Darin Ruf homered for his first major league hit, while Carlos Ruiz and Domonic Brown also went deep for Philadelphia, which improved to 13-5 since Sept. 5.

"We just want to play good baseball,'' said Cole Hamels, who won a career-best 16th game.

The Nationals (93-61) have already secured a playoff spot, and their magic number over Atlanta to win the East is five with eight games remaining. By losing the opener, though, Washington cannot celebrate a division title at Citizens Bank Park, home of the five-time defending East champs. The Phillies clinched three of those titles against the Nationals.

"We'd like to have celebrated on their field like they did with us,'' said Ross Detwiler, who gave up five runs in five innings Tuesday.

The Nationals are four ahead of the Braves with eight to play, but extending that advantage could be difficult behind Lannan (3-0, 4.43 ERA), who is set to make his third start since taking over Stephen Strasburg's slot in the rotation and fifth overall.

In 17 career starts against the Phillies, Lannan is 2-12 with a 5.79 ERA. His .143 winning percentage is the worst of any pitcher that has at least 12 decisions against the Philadelphia franchise dating to 1921.

Countering with Kyle Kendrick (10-11, 3.89) also seems like it should work in the Phillies' favor.

Kendrick gave up two runs and five hits while striking out six in 6 2-3 innings in Friday's 6-2 victory over Atlanta. It was the seventh time in eight starts he permitted two runs or less, which has trimmed his ERA by nearly a run from 4.86.

"I'm confident in what I have and what kind of pitcher I am right now,'' Kendrick said.

He's faced the Nationals once during this stretch, yielding two runs and four hits in 6 2-3 innings of a 4-2 victory Aug. 24.

Kendrick has typically pitched well against Washington, having gone 2-1 with a 2.21 ERA in his last six starts in the series. He's had Ryan Zimmerman's number, limiting the third baseman to one hit in 10 at-bats since the start of last season. Bryce Harper, though, is 4 for 7 with a pair of doubles against the right-hander.

Harper had two hits Tuesday, and is batting .370 in seven games at Citizens Bank Park, his highest average at any NL park.

Ruiz, who hit his 16th homer in the opener, is batting .353 with one homer in 17 at-bats against Lannan since 2009.

Lannan was roughed up in the second game of last Wednesday's doubleheader with the Los Angeles Dodgers, permitting six runs and eight hits in 3 2-3 innings in a 7-6 loss, but didn't get the decision. The left-hander had posted a 2.41 ERA in winning his previous three starts.