Phillies travel to DC with hopes of getting back on track: Nationals Series preview

Philadelphia Phillies’ Kyle Schwarber is greeted in the dugout after his solo home run off Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Chris Sale during the first inning of a baseball game Sunday, March 31, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

Losing their first two series of the year is not the start the 2024 season the Philadelphia Phillies had in mind. Dropping a series 1-2 against their top National League East rival, the Atlanta Braves, is understandable, losing their following series to the Cincinnati Reds, whom don’t project highly in the National League Central race, is less so. Until you consider that the Phillies were one blow-up inning away from potentially claiming game one of the series. Wednesday’s loss in terrible conditions? That’s just baseball.

Regardless how you chalk up the first six games for the Phillies, that’s exactly what they are. The first six games of a 162-game marathon. Now, the Phillies move on from their first home stand both physically and literally as they travel down to Washington D.C. for a three-game set against the Nationals.

Philadelphia Phillies’ Alec Bohm, right, is doused by teammates Brandon Marsh, left, and Bryson Stott during an interview after the team’s baseball game against the Atlanta Braves, Sunday, March 31, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

How The Nationals Started Out

The Nationals stand in a similar position to the Phillies following their first six games, also owning a 2-4 record. They lost their first road series against the Reds 1-2 before dropping their home opener on Monday against the Pittsburgh Pirates. They defeated the Pirates on Wednesday 5-3 before, most recently, losing their series finale against the Pirates 7-4 Thursday afternoon.

Phillies vs Nationals: Pitching matchups

Game One | Friday, April 5 | 6:45 P.M.

Aaron Nola toes the rubber for the Phillies in his second start of the season on Friday evening. Lacking his best stuff, Nola struggled against the Braves in his first start, allowing six runs on 11 hits across 4.1 innings. In one start against the Nationals in 2023, Nola pitched 5.0 innings of one-run baseball, striking out six batters.

Nola goes up against Patrick Corbin, who also only survived 4.1 innings in his first start of the season, against the Reds. Corbin allowed four runs on seven hits against the Reds on the contest. Several Phillies have had Corbin’s number on their careers with Alec Bohm, J.T. Realmuto, and Kyle Schwarber all owning OPS’s over 1.200 against Corbin, combining for six home runs against the left-hander.

Game Two | Saturday, April 6 | 4:05 P.M.

Mister Calm, Cool, and Collected, Ranger Suarez, is scheduled to get the ball Saturday night for the Phillies. Suarez started what would be the Phillies’ first win of the season on Easter Sunday, earning the no-decision in five innings of three-run baseball, racking up seven strikeouts.

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Ranger Suarez throws to an Atlanta Braves during the second inning of a baseball game Sunday, March 31, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

As I write this, I am getting an odd sense of deja vu. As you read above, Nola and Corbin each lasted the same amount of innings in their first start. Suarez, meanwhile, lasted the same amount of innings and allowed the same amount of runs on Easter Sunday as his scheduled opponent on Saturday: Jake Irvin. Irvin struck out four while allowing three runs over five innings. Irvin, 27, is entering his second season in the Big Leagues. He kept the Phillies scoreless in his only start against them thus far, fanning seven over six innings.

Game Three | Sunday, April 7 | 1:35 P.M.

Cristopher Sanchez will look to continue his strong start to the season as he gets the getaway day start on Sunday. Sanchez fooled eight Reds batters while allowing two runs on five hits over five frames of work on April Fools’ Day. In two starts against the Nationals in 2023, Sanchez allowed only three earned runs over 12 innings of work.

MacKenzie Gore is on the mound as the second portion of a Sunday southpaw showdown. Gore allowed three earned runs over 5.1 innings of work. In 2023, the Phillies had Gore’s number, scoring 16 runs in 13.2 innings across three starts. One can hope that the Phillies will continue such a… gory… display against the left-hander on Sunday.

Phillies vs Nationals: Players to Watch

With two left-handed pitchers slated for the Nationals, it will be interesting to see how manager Rob Thomson utilizes Brandon Marsh in the Phillies’ plans over the weekend. Marsh, 6-for-18, has been one of the Phillies’ hottest bats to start the season with only Kyle Schwarber recording more hits, going 7-for-25 in a larger sample size.

Philadelphia Phillies’ Kyle Schwarber gestures after hitting a solo home run off Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Chris Sale during the first inning of a baseball game, Sunday, March 31, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

Any time the Phillies make a trip to the nation’s capital, Bryce Harper is bound to get attention. After his historic performance on Tuesday evening, Harper leads the Phillies with three home runs and six RBI. Despite his low .211 average to start the year, Harper has fell the victim to many hard-hit baseballs finding gloves at just the right time. Had a couple of those hard hits found grass before a glove, the Phillies just might have a winning record today.

Young shortstop CJ Abrams is the man to watch for on the Nationals’ side. 8-for-24 so far on the season, Abrams went 2-for-5 with a solo home run in the National’s loss to the Pirates Thursday afternoon.

AP Photo/Derik Hamilton