The Philadelphia Phillies (39-34) are looking a bit like a boxer who has built a nice lead on the judge’s scorecards, winning the first handful of rounds, only to get nailed with a haymaker by the opposition and suddenly find themselves reeling, clinging to the ropes, hoping the knockout blow doesn’t come before they can somehow regain their composure, get back to their corner, and formulate some kind of plan to rally.
The Washington Nationals (35-38) on the other hand look like that opposition fighter. Was getting knocked around in the early rounds, looked entirely lost. But then, suddenly, that fighter lands a big shot, sees the stunned look in the former leader’s eyes, and goes in for the kill with renewed energy.
It will be the host Nationals going for the series sweep on Thursday evening when the two sides meet once again at Nationals Park. They swept the Phillies in a day-night doubleheader on Wednesday, pulling the Nats within four games of the Phils and Colorado Rockies in the race for the final NL Wildcard slot.
Since falling to a season-worst 19-31 on May 23, the Nationals have gone 16-7 to get back into the race. Meanwhile, the Phillies were sitting at a season-best 33-22 on May 29, but have gone just 6-12 since that point. They have not only fallen out of first place in the NL East, trailing the Atlanta Braves by four games, but have also lost sole possession of a Wildcard playoff berth.
In the midst of a month-long stretch of games against only National League East Division games, the Phillies are 1-4 thus far. There are 20 of those division rivalry games remaining in this stretch of the season.
Weather has been a major factor in this series. Persistent thunderstorms and showers caused the postponement of games on both Monday and Tuesday night, resulting in yesterday’s split twin-bill and a game rescheduled for late September. Tonight looks okay. While there is a 45% chance of scattered t-storms at the 7:05 pm first pitch, that drops to just 20-25% for the rest of the game.
Following the game tonight, the club will return home to Citizens Bank Park. Tomorrow night they fete former hero Chase Utley as ‘The Man’ officially retires as a member of the Phillies prior to a weekend series opener with the last-place Miami Marlins. Going home with a win tonight could make for much improved feelings when the fans pack the ball park to honor their former hero.
THURSDAY STARTING LINEUPS
- Bryce Harper RF
- Rhys Hoskins 1B
- Jay Bruce LF
- J.T. Realmuto C
- Jean Segura SS
- Scott Kingery CF
- Cesar Hernandez 2B
- Maikel Franco 3B
- Nick Pivetta P
- Trea Turner SS
- Adam Eaton RF
- Anthony Rendon 3B
- Juan Soto LF
- Howie Kendrick 2B
- Matt Adams 1B
- Kurt Suzuki C
- Victor Robles CF
- Erick Fedde P
Nats skipper Dave Martinez finally giving Kendrick a shot. The 35-year-old 14-year veteran who played with the Phillies for 39 games during the 2016 season has enjoyed a tremendous first-half, filling in at three different positions.
SHIBE VINTAGE SPORTS STARTING PITCHING MATCHUP
PHILLIES – Nick Pivetta: 4-1, 5.00 ERA, 1.400 WHIP, 51 hits over 45 IP across eight starts with a 43/12 K:BB. The 26-year-old righty has been the Phillies best starting pitcher since returning to the club from a stint in the minor leagues on May 28. However, he was knocked around a bit in his last outing last Friday night in Atlanta by the hot Braves lineup. He surrendered three home runs among eight hits allowed over 6.2 innings.
NATIONALS – Erick Fedde: 6-5, 3.75 ERA, 1.063 WHIP, 78 hits over 96 IP across 16 starts with a 115/24 K:BB. Fedde is a 26-year-old right-hander who was the Nationals first round pick at 18th overall in the 2014 MLB Draft. This will be his fourth career start against the Phillies, his most of any opponent. In 2018, he went 2-1 with a 4.32 ERA in three starts and struck out a career-high nine batters in 5.2 innings of two-hit shutout ball on Sept. 11, 2018 at Citizens Bank Park.
PHILLIES NUGGETS PREGAME NOTES
- Washington enters tonight’s game having won three straight, four of its last five, and 16 of 23 games dating to May 24. Their 16-7 record since May 24 ranks second in Major League Baseball over this stretch behind only the Los Angeles Dodgers.
- Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon ranks third in the National League in OPS (1.038), fifth in on-base percentage (.402) and slugging percentage (.636) and ninth in batting average (.309), and leads all NL third basemen in nearly every offensive category.
- The retirement of 2008 World Series champion Chase Utley kicks off a weekend of fan events surrounding the Phillies-Marlins series. Fans are encouraged to be in their seats by 6:40 pm at the latest on Friday night for the ceremony. They will also receive a special bobblehead commemorating the unforgettable World Series parade speech by ‘The Man’. There will also be limited edition Utley merchandise available at various stadium shops and vendors on Friday night.
- Following Saturday night’s game, country music star Brad Eldredge will perform a live concert on the field. Your game ticket is also your concert ticket, so just stick around following the final pitch.
- On Sunday, kids 14-and-under receive a Rhys Hoskins wiffle ball and bat set.
TICKET IQ PROGRAMMING INFORMATION
- Thursday June 20 at 7:05 pm EDT vs. the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park
- TV: NBC Sports Philadelphia
- Radio: SportsRadio 94 WIP, WTTM 1680 (Spanish)
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