2017 Series Preview

Series Preview: Washington Nationals (2-1) at Philadelphia Phillies (1-2), April 7-9

Westview_Logo_nationals_1.jpgThe Phillies open Citizens Bank Ballpark for what should be their most promising, or at least most interesting, season in a half-decade. Kind of wish it wouldn’t have been against one of the two or three National League favorites. But here we are, with baseball back in South Philadelphia.

What to expect

On Monday night, we thought this might be the welcome home for an upstart with potential. Now the Phils come home 1-2, outscored 11-5 over their last 25 innings. Yup, that’s five runs in 25 innings. To make matters worse, here’s something you already knew: The Nationals are not the Reds. Big news. The Nationals are better than the Phillies (and the Reds) in every way, shape and form. But hey, who knows. Maybe there is some lightning in a bottle here to catch, and maybe the Phillies are playing the Nats at the right time and can win two of three. It’s not something I’d bet any amount of money on, but it’s fun to think of.

Forget it, this is the home opener. Let’s have some fun and win some games.

Starters

Friday at 3:05 p.m., Vincent Velasquez vs. Max Scherzer

Awww, isn’t that nice of them? The Nationals decided to hold back the reigning National League Cy Young winner, and undoubtedly one of the five best pitchers in baseball, to spoil the Phillies’ home opener. Probably since he got all that work in the World Baseball Classic (burn 1). The Phillies did the right thing themselves in holding back two of their three best (or at least most promising) starters for this series, but this is asking a lot from Velasquez in the home opener. Look at this Nats pitching lineup for the series, and it’s almost like manager Dusty Baker thought to send a message to the Phils: “Oh yeah? You think you guys are coming up? That’s cute. Hold my beer…”

Saturday at 7:05 p.m., Joe Ross (probable, not announced) vs. Aaron Nola

This is the one game of the series that you think the Phils, on paper, can win. That may be disrespecting Joe Ross, but when you’re dealing with Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg on the bookends, you take what you can get. Big game for Nola. You never want to base your opinion on any pitcher from their first game of a season, but let’s just say it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for Nola to go out and shut down the Nats here.

Sunday at 1:35 p.m., Jeremy Hellickson (1-0, 1.80 ERA) vs. Stephen Strasburg (1-0, 2.57 ERA)

If he’s not hurt by Sunday and can start (burn 2), Strasburg has just eaten up and spit out the Phillies in 17 career starts. In 110 innings – which is like a full season for him (burn 3) – he’s 8-2 with a 2.37 ERA, a 0.836 WHIP and had 11.3 K/IP against the Phillies. That’s by far the best of his numbers against any NL East team. And with as right-handed as the Phillies are, and as offensively challenged as we’ve seen them be for the last couple years and the first three games of the year, umm, I’m taking the under (what’s the over/under going to be on this game? 5? 6? 2?) in this one. That pick of under is also because Hellickson’s Monday showing might not be fool’s gold, it might be what he can do consistently. Let’s focus on how well he pitched Monday and not on the Phillies potential offense against Strasburg and how it might only take about two hours to get this one in. Cool? Cool.

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Keith Griggs

    April 7, 2017 at 3:36 pm

    How can Ben ask why we boo Werth? He left a winning team for $$ pure and simple. If he stayed we offered a good contract. No loyalty to the team that made him a household name…. that’s why we BOO!

  2. bruce

    April 8, 2017 at 5:13 pm

    Hey! Philly fans really don’t need a reason or excuse to boo. That’s how they earned their reputation over the years (smile). Enough of that silly subject.

    Let’s focus on the topic of the current series VS. the Nasty Nats. The Nats have dominated the Phillies in Citizen Bank Park winning 9 out of the last 10 games played in Philly. Now Stephen Strasburg is scheduled to pitch against the Phillies tonight. The Phillies pitcher? It’s OH NO NO Nola! He was the supreme batting practice pitcher of the grapefruit league this spring. Should we give him a benefit of a doubt for tonight? Can he give us at least five innings of quality pitching? All eyes are on him. Otherwise, tonight’s game feature an obvious mismatch with Strasburg who has his own record of dominance against the Phillies going against Nola. Ugh!

  3. Ken Bland

    April 8, 2017 at 7:57 pm

    9 official at bats, 9 base hits, 12 runs. My bold prediction is Nola can relax. What a first inning!

  4. Ken Bland

    April 8, 2017 at 8:03 pm

    Phillies looked at 68 pitches in the first inning. I’d guess that in the 23-22 game, or any other, they never faced that many pitches in 1 inning.

    Guthrie ends the night with an ERA of 135.00. That’s called shabby.

    12 runs, 9 hits in the first. Prorate that sucker.

    • Ken Bland

      April 9, 2017 at 10:20 pm

      Last night’s off the cuff guess about the Phils never having faced 68 pitches in 1 inning was an immediate comparison to the memorable 23-22 game in ’79 at Wrigley. An almost equally memorable result, although far before baseball watching days was the 26-23 Cub win over the Phils in 1922.

      Scant records from back then provide limited boxscores, but in that particular game, the Cubs scored 14 runs in the 4th inning, and oh, by the way, 10 2 innings before. That’s not the Phils anyway, and to my awareness, there’s no way to tell the number of pitches in that game, but in total, the Cubs had 26 hits, 10 walks, so both those explosions could well have had high pitch counts.

      All told Saturday night, the Nats threw 196 pitches. Just as a comparison, this year is the 10th anniversary of the game the Rangers scored 30 runs in a game (all earned, mind you) against the O’s. Baltimore pitching that game threw 252 pitches, walking 8 hitters while Nats pitching walked just 5 Phils last night. But while a boxscore from 10 years ago still doesn’t present info on pitch counts, that Texas did all their scoring in only 4 innings, and faced 252 pitches, they might have surpassed the 68 total. The Rangers scored 9 in the 6th, and 10 in the 8th in Game 1 of a doubleheader.

      Saturday night’s memorable first inning is well placed in the sport’s weekend highlights, but the Angels 7 run 9th to upend Seattle today (10-9) is a solid contender, and if you’re scoring at home, was accomplished on facing only 37 pitches.

      If there’s a moral to the story, it’s that sometimes, plate patience is great, sometimes, not relevant. I kinda like the old Shane Victorino approach of see ball, hit ball, but there’s room for both approaches.

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