If the Phillies have any hope to return to the post-season in 2014, they will need to play better than the other teams in the division, especially the Nationals and Braves. When the Phillies and Braves met up for a rain-shortened four game series a couple of weeks ago, the Phillies needed to prove that they could play with the Braves. Generally, they did that despite losing two of three. Much like that series was, this weekend’s series against the Nationals is another big test for this Phillies team.
The Nationals are a better team that the Phillies both on paper and statistically. Their offense is third in the NL in runs per game (4.50) while the Phillies’ offense ranks sixth (4.12). The Nationals also have a better on-base percentage (.328 versus .315) and slugging percentage (.415 versus .376). Their pitching is better than the Phillies’ as well. Their starters’ ERA is 3.74 while the Phillies’ starters have a 4.06 ERA. Their bullpen is significantly better as well with a 2.14 ERA compared to the Phillies’ 4.84.
While the Phillies have been playing better lately, this series against the Nationals is a big one. The Phillies need to prove that they can play on the same level as the Nationals, and in doing so, send a message to the rest of the division. The fact that they pushed back Kyle Kendrick’s start says a lot about the importance of this series as well since Kendrick has bad career numbers against the Nats with a career 4.85 ERA. They will be throwing Lee, Burnett, and Hamels, their best arms, at the Nats this weekend, which makes this series a must win for the Phillies. A series win would be a huge boost to this team’s confidence, and would be a great bounce back after a sloppy loss against the Mets last Tuesday. Also, being more than one game over .500 would be nice for a change.