Philadelphia Phillies (13-13) at Washington Nationals (16-9)
I can’t tell you the last time I was this excited about a series in the beginning of May. Hell, I can’t tell you the last time I was this excited about a series with the Nationals. But I’m stoked for this one. With the Mets falling by the wayside in recent years, Phillies fans could use a new team to pose as the object of their scorn, and the Nats seem to be more than willing to volunteer for the position. It started back in February, when the Nats launched their Take Back The Park Campaign, which caused many local fans to try harder than ever to get seats in Washington for this series, and prompted a “Take Back Nationals Park” promotion here at Phillies Nation, which you can read about here and here. The tension escalated a month later, when Brad Lidge made the claim that the Nationals were probably the most talented team he had ever played on.
Suddenly, there’s a lot hype surrounding the Nats, and the Phillies could have a legitimate rival on their hands. The Nats even came up with an adorable little catchphrase and accompanying fan’s guide to cheering to show they mean business when the Phils come to town this year. Natitude. They couldn’t be cuter.
But empty catchphrases and promotional posturing aside, the Nats are a team with a young core of talent that is building to be a contender. One reason for that is the man who will be on the mound when they take the field tonight–Stephen Strasburg. In his only career start against the Phils, Strasburg was mowing them down, amassing six strikeouts and allowing two hits in 4.1 innings of work. Then this happened. The injury resulted in Strasburg needing Tommy John Surgery and missing the rest of 2010 and most of 2011. He’s back now, and pitching better than ever, taking home NL Pitcher of the Month honors for April. He’s gone at least six innings in all of his starts this season, and has yet to allow more than two runs. The Phillies will have their hands full.
Opposing Strasburg will be Mr. Inconsistency, Kyle Kendrick. In his two starts this season, Kendrick has posted an ERA of 9.00. But he is capable of pulling a rabbit out of his hat and putting together a really good start from time to time, as our own Corey Seidman wrote earlier. For his career, however, Kendrick has not been very good against the Nats, going 2-3 with a 5.46 ERA over 13 games. In four starts at Nationals Park, his ERA jumps up to 6.53.
One thing in the Phillies favor tonight: As bad as they were offensively through the first month of the season, the Nationals were worse. If Kendrick can keep the Phils in it, they may be able to steal a late-inning victory. Either way: Friday night, Strasburg on the mound, that guy Bryce Harper (whom you may have heard of) in left field, a chance to get over .500 for the second time this season, the dawning of a new rivalry–it ought to be a lot of fun.
Lineup: Rollins SS, Pierre LF, Polanco 3B, Pence RF, Victorino CF, Nix 1B, Ruiz C, Orr 2B, Kendrick P.
Your Gameday Beer – Newcastle Brown Ale
What better way to kick off your weekend than with a Newcastle? Imported from England, Newcastle has a brown color with a reddish glow. The taste consists of soft caramel malts with just a hint of honey. It goes down smooth, making it perfect for a relaxing night in or a night at the bar. Since it’s British, have it with some bangers and mash (sausage and mashed potatoes as we Statesiders call it). –By RD