Nationals vs Phillies series preview: Bunt after reading

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Philadelphia Phillies’ Kyle Schwarber is congratulated bt Rhys Hoskins after hitting a two-run home run during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers Thursday, June 9, 2022, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Finally – the Washington Nationals. On the edge of the beautiful Salt Line, beneath the gaze of the Red Porch, the Philadelphia Phillies finally showdown in our Nation’s Capitol.

Sixty-three games played for the Phils, and none one of them has featured the much-maligned President’s Race.

It’s a shame it’s taken this long to reunite with familiar faces like César Hernández and Maikel Franco. The boys make up for the lost time with a regular family reunion.

Five games against the National League bottom-dwelling Nationals cannot hurt as we witness the Phillies’ best June since 2011 (yes, that’s correct).

So if you like baseball, Budweiser and boos, get ready for a five-game weekend.

Nationals trade bait

Not much has gone right for the Nationals since Ryan Zimmerman retired, but Josh Bell‘s been a bright spot at first base.

Bell’s 67 hits rank third-most in the MLB for first basemen behind only Paul Goldschmidt and Freddie Freeman. That is rare company for the former Pittsburgh Pirate.

The power’s down a bit, but the result has been the highest OPB of his career (.368). I’d doubt Bell’s on this roster come August.

A bully pulpit for a lousy bullpen

The Phillies bullpen has not been good. Here’s the last week:

PlayerERAERIP
Brogdon2.2514.0
Familia13.5032.0
Knebel0.0001.0
Norwood13.5032.0
Dominguez2.7013.1
Nelson15.4342.1
Bellati0.0001.2
Alvarado18.0021.0
Hand7.7122.1
TOTAL7.321619.2

7.32 ERA will not cut it.

James Norwood has already been DFA’d, and José Alvarado has bounced back and forth between the minors, but it hasn’t been enough.

Ultimately, Jeurys Familia and Corey Knebel have been massive disappointments. Four blown saves from Knebel might mean the end of the road for his ninth-inning relief.

A move will be made before the Deadline, but there isn’t a closer on this current iteration of the Phillies roster.

Probable Pitchers

Of the five games coming this weekend, only three pitching matchups have been confirmed. The make-up double-header Friday remains a bit of a blind spot.

Zack Wheeler (5-3, 2.84 ERA) v. Patrick Corbin (3-8, 6.65 ERA)

With a couple of exceptions, Wheeler hasn’t had much trouble with this Nationals lineup in the past. The obvious Juan Soto has hit .314 in 35 at-bats, but that’s just Soto. It’s Hernandez that has kept Wheels up at night.

In 26 at-bats, the former Phil has hit .385 against May’s NL Pitcher of the Month. I never thought I’d propose pitching around Hernández, but so is life.

Aaron Nola (4-4, 3.42 ERA) v. Josiah Gray (6-4, 4.33 ERA)

Nola’s ERA on the road is 1.4 points lower than at home. Too many cheesesteaks.

Zach Eflin (2-4, 3.98 ERA) v. Jackson Tetreault (MLB Debut)

Eflin’s last appearance got off to a rocky start, but kudos, he settled in and delivered an admirable performance against the Miami Marlins. All for naught, of course, as the bullpen mentioned above, spoiled it.

I’d even argue Eflin’s overtaken Kyle Gibson as the Phillies’ number three starter.

Tetreault will make his Major League debut Sunday. You are really throwing him to the sharks.

Keep an eye on the heat

Rhys Hoskins versus the field. That’s been a good bet over the last week. Here’s a look:

PlayerHRRBIBAOPS
Rhys Hoskins49.5001.670

Those are NL Player of the Month numbers. Against Corbin, Hoskins has hit .308 with a pair of solo homer runs. Let’s keep the party going in the series opener.

AP Photo/Morry Gash

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