The Philadelphia Phillies had some strong expectations and hopes for facing the Washington Nationals this weekend. Phillies fans like myself at least hoped to take two of three games, finally get back over .500 and prove the Nationals are not as far along as they think they are. Instead, Philadelphia goes into the series finale on May 6 in desperate need to salvage just one win.
Hopes were first diminished when the Nationals rallied back for a 4-3 11-inning win on May 4. Then they were utterly crushed the next afternoon once Washington stormed through for a 7-1 victory. Now that the Nationals have already won this statement series and dropped the Phillies down to last place, getting a series sweep on May 6 would be the final indignity.
Sweeping Philadelphia may not be as much of a noteworthy achievement anymore. However, for a Washington team with designs on taking the next step and proving it is for real, sweeping the five-time defending NL East champions would be a big psychological victory. It would be especially huge to do it at home, considering their "Take Back The Park" campaign to get more Nationals fans to attend these games than Phillies fans.
For good measure, the series finale is in front of a prime time audience on ESPN. This is the Nationals' first real chance to come through on a big stage, and sweeping the Phillies would certainly qualify. Of course, doing this in May is different from doing so in September and October, but it has to start somewhere.
For the Phillies, they are suddenly more aware of how the Nationals have their number lately. Washington won its last five games over Philadelphia in 2011, although most of them were meaningless late-season clashes. The Phillies were already cruising to the playoffs by then and were fully healthy, while the Nationals were playing out the string yet again.
Things are much more different this time, as both the Phillies and Nationals are not the same anymore. However, Philadelphia has to wonder about how Washington had its way with it late last year when the Nationals weren't as good. Now that they are better, how much more dominant can they get while the Phillies are still healing?
The answer hasn't reflected well on the Phillies thus far in this series, so not even salvaging one win would look even worse. Then again, Philadelphia has only thrown Kyle Kendrick and Vance Worley at Washington so far, instead of one of its Big Three aces. The Nationals have a crop of budding aces as well, yet Cole Hamels is now coming out for the Phillies in the finale, where he needs to show them what a real established ace looks like.
If Philadelphia can't even beat Washington with Hamels in prime time, it will say it all right there. Regardless, it may still take months to confirm if there is a true new order in the NL East. Yet a clean Nationals sweep this weekend will certainly get things rolling in the right direction for them.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident who has followed the Phillies since he was eight years old.
Other stories from this contributor
- Sports & Recreation
- Washington Nationals