After mother nature didn’t agree with the baseball gods on Friday night, the Phillies will begin a three game series with the Nationals tonight. The game that was postponed now sets up a doubleheader for Sunday. The Phillies are slumping, now sitting at 13-19, and losers of 7 of their last 8 games. The Nationals sit at 22-12, firmly atop the NL East, but have lost 3 of their 4 games.
This will be the fourth series already between these two clubs, with the Nationals winning 5 of the 9 games that they have faced off, so despite the Nationals dominance to start the season, the Phillies always seem to play them tough.
The series begins tonight, with Nick Pivetta (0-2 5.40 ERA) making his third career MLB start. Pivetta has lost both outings, but in his most previous start, went 5 innings giving up two runs against a high-powered Dodgers team. The Nationals bats won’t be an easy proposition for the young Canadian to face, but he can only get better by being thrown into the fire. He will oppose Tanner Roark (3-1 3.46 ERA), who the Phillies have faced twice already. In those two games, Roark went 13 innings, gave up 6 hits and only surrendered two earned runs. It’s time for the Phillies to make some adjustments.
The double-header begins at 1:35PM on Sunday with Jeremy Hellickson (4-1 3.49 ERA) facing Gio Gonzalez (3-1 2.64 ERA). Hellickson has been one of the positives this season for the Phillies, as he has provided the squad with five quality starts already this early in the season. He has faced the Nationals twice already, picking up a win and a no decision, combining for 12 innings, 5 hits and 2 earned runs. Gio picked up his first loss of the season in his most recent game against the Orioles.
The final game, at 7:05PM Sunday night will be the struggling Vince Velasquez (2-3 5.94ERA) facing off against Max Scherzer (4-2 2.59ERA). Scherzer has been so consistent, going at least six innings in every start this season. Vince Velasquez has been all over the place, giving up eight home runs in his six starts and despite a high number of strikeouts, has been walking more batters than usual.
Pete Mackanin says he will be adjusting the lineup for this upcoming series, due to the recent play of some of the batters. Before Friday’s rainout, Mackanin had Maikel Franco, normally the clean-up hitter, moved down in the lineup to 6th. Franco went 1-17 in the most recent homestand, and his average sits at a poor .207.
“Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. He [Maikel] took extra batting practice working on what he needs to do. I give him credit. He’s working hard to try to make adjustments. He just needs to learn how to not swing so hard. That’s a key,” said Mackanin yesterday.
There is a good chance that his clean-up spot will be filled by the red-hot Aaron Altherr (who has been batting 2nd) who has hit four home runs in the past three games, and is batting .351 on the young season. The Phillies might seem outmatched, but they have played the Nats tough throughout this 2017 campaign. Will it continue? Find out tonight.