PHILADELPHIA, PA – SEPTEMBER 08: Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Vince Velasquez (21) delivers a pitch during the game between the Boston Red Socks and the Philadelphia Phillies on September 8, 2020 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)
The Phillies are returning home to Citizen Bank Park after what was supposed to be a nine (thanks rain) game road trip. They closed said road trip and the series against the Reds with an offensive explosion, winning 17-3, but finished the trip going 3-5. With their record now sitting at 26-29 overall, the Phillies will look to gain some momentum as they welcome the Washington Nationals to town over the weekend to kick off an eight-game homestand.
Last Time the Phillies Met the Nationals
The Phillies took 2 of 3 from the Nats in their only series against their division rival back on May 11-13. They won game 1 on the shoulders of the last strong performance Chase Anderson had this season, and game two was Zack Wheeler’s only start under seven innings in May, but he was supported by 15 hits from the Phillies offense. Zach Eflin started game three and the Nats jumped on him early, scoring 4 runs in the first inning. These teams have both continued to hover around .500 but are both fully entrenched in the race for the NL East crown.
The Phillies announced their starting pitchers for the weekend. Zack Wheeler will open the series on Friday, facing off against the ace of the Nationals staff, Max Scherzer. Spencer Howard and Vince Velasquez will get their first turns against the Nats this season, facing off against Joe Ross and TBD, respectively.
Wheeler has turned into the stud that fans and the Phillies front office thought they were getting when they signed him prior to the 2020 season. Howard has one start at the major league level this season and it did not go well. With an innings limit and diminishing velocity, it is unclear how truly effective Howard will be. Velasquez has had a very different season. Starting the season in the bullpen, most recently Vince joined the starting rotation, and has impressed. He lowered his ERA from 6.57 at the end of April, to 4.08 to close out May.
Per Matt Gelb, Philadelphia had an opportunity to pitch Eflin and Nola on normal rest but have decided to go with Velasquez and Howard instead.
The Phillies have been trending positively, due in big part to dropping 17 for the first time since July 6, 2018. The Fightin’s are slashing .269 / .333 / .486 over the last 7. Odubel Herrera has started to re-find his footing in the majors, taking over the center field job, and the Phillies are hoping the big performances from Alec Bohm and Andrew McCutchen in their last game will spark them and the offense going into this divisional matchup.
The Nationals haven’t fared as well as of late, hitting .201 / .272 / .295 over their previous 7 games. Washington dropped 5 in a row within their last 8 games and, although they scored 11 against the Braves recently, have clearly struggled offensively when you look at their slash line.
The NL East is still wide open, with Washington at 8-10 and Philadelphia at 13-15 in the NL East, respectively. Although the Phillies are in 3rd place, while the Nationals are in last they are only separated by two games in the standings. With only the Mets having a winning record in the division overall, both teams are looking to start June strong and make up some ground in this inter-divisional battle.
Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire
Kyle Fisher is a contributor of Phillies content for Philly Sports Network. Kyle is a sports media freelancer, specializing in writing for digital, and on-air/on-mic presentation. Kyle is a big Philadelphia sport fan, and graduated from Temple University with a degree in Broadcasting/Mass Media. Can be contacted on Twitter @KyleFisher45 or through email at [email protected]