Series Preview: Phillies look for successful series on the road vs. Nationals

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Phillies Weston Wilson
Philadelphia Phillies’ Weston Wilson hits a home run against Washington Nationals pitcher MacKenzie Gore during the second inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Philadelphia Phillies are headed back down I-95 again to D.C. for the last time this season. The Fightins will look for win number two on the road after splitting a series earlier in the week against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Philadelphia is currently sitting 3.5 games ahead of the San Francisco Giants in the National League Wild Card race with 41 games left on the calendar.

With hopes of winning the division out of reach, all their focus is on maintaining (or increasing) their lead for the first Wild Card spot in the postseason. Taking on the fourth place Washington Nationals should (keyword: should) be a cakewalk.

Phillies Nationals
Philadelphia Phillies’ Nick Castellanos rounds the bases after hitting a two-run home run against Washington Nationals pitcher MacKenzie Gore during the first inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Consistency is key for the Phillies

As they head into the dog days of August, a crop of offensive issues is becoming more prominent for the Phillies. Some games, the Phils will head onto the field and dominate at the plate, racking up double digits in scoring; however, they seem to struggle to keep this hot streak alive for long.

This two game series was the epitome of this “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” trend, as Kyle Schwarber, Nick Castellanos, J.T. Realmuto, Bryce Harper, and Trea Turner went 0-for-18 against the Blue Jays on Tuesday. However, when you fast forward to Wednesday, that same fivesome went 7-for-20 with two homers from Harper, three doubles, and four RBIs.

While it can be frustrating to watch, the Phillies have shown that they can put together a string of solid wins. After they were below .500 at 25-32 in June, the Philadelphia Phillies have the second-most wins in baseball in that stretch, slowly bringing the potential of this lineup to fruition.

This inconsistency is part of the problem. It’s as if every lineup that manager Rob Thomson puts out is a “will this work/won’t this work” moment. The Nationals, in another rebuilding season, managed to take two out of three from the Boston Red Sox and they’re showing up at a more consistent interval. If Wednesday’s Phillies show up, they’re good. If not, losses could be in the future.

Phillies Nationals
Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Michael Lorenzen celebrates after pitching a no-hitter during a baseball game against the Washington Nationals, Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

As usual, pitching is key

After his no-no against Washington last Wednesday, Michael Lorenzen (7-7, 3.23) will start on Friday night. The right-hander was acquired at the trade deadline from Detroit and has had two stellar starts for the Phils. He earned National League Co-Player of the Week thanks to the no-no and shared the award with a fellow NL East member in Atlanta Braves catcher Matt Olson. Saturday will see Cristopher Sánchez (1-3, 3.39) take the mound. Sánchez has managed to limit opposing offenses to scoring only a few runs and should manage to stifle the Nationals’ offense on Saturday.

Relievers are where the Phillies might run into some issues. Their relievers have a combined 5.14 ERA over the last week and have struggled to navigate a seven-man bullpen. With limited relievers for Thomson to use, everyone is going to see high-leverage spots. Putting guys like Craig Kimbrel or Seranthony Dominguez on the mound hasn’t proved to be the grace Philadelphia has needed. Unfortunately, there aren’t any other options.

Philadelphia Phillies starter Cristopher Sanchez pitches against the Tampa Bay Rays during the first inning of a baseball game Thursday, July 6, 2023, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Nesius)

Starting Pitchers

The starting pitches for the Friday and Saturday games are the following:

  • Michael Lorenzen (7-7, 3.23 ERA) vs Joan Adon (1-0, 5.14 ERA)
  • Cristopher Sanchez (1-3, 3.39 ERA) vs Jake Irvin (3-5, 4.76 ERA)

Philadelphia needs guys like Schwarber and Turner to keep delivering their dingers at the plate. Washington is a good place for homers but it needs to be the away team – not the home team – scoring them.

Simply put, expect pitching to be the highlight or downfall of the weekend.

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)