Even as the Washington Nationals (54-60) have continued to play rock-bottom baseball since the All-Star break, the Philadelphia Phillies (52-62) have not been able to overtake them in the standings due to their own substandard level of play.
The second-place Nationals are 15.5 games out of first place, and the Phillies are in fourth at 17.5 games back. After the Atlanta Braves cemented their huge lead on the division by sweeping the Nationals, the other four teams in the NL East can only pin their hopes on second place.
One team will finish in second place, just as one team will win this series. However, based on the way both the Phillies and the Nationals have been playing lately, it seems the winner is more likely to achieve victory by default, rather than through hard-fought wins.
Both the Phillies and the Nationals have abysmal records since the All-Star break. The Nationals have lost four straight, and are just 6-13 since then. The Phillies have an even worse record of 4-14 in the same span, including an eight-game losing streak in late July.
Both offenses have similarly underperformed during that period. The Phillies have averaged 3.83 runs per game to the Nationals’ 3.26. However, the Phillies are riding a small wave of offensive momentum into D.C., after pummeling the Chicago Cubs in a 12-1 win on Thursday night.
One team’s offense will inevitably score more runs than the other, but their recent track records indicate the run totals during this series are not likely to be very high.
The series opener will be John Lannan’s first time pitching at his former home ballpark as a Phillie. In 65 career starts at Nationals Park, Lannan is 18-26 with a 3.84 ERA. But in his two starts against the Nationals this year, Lannan has punched up a 1.38 ERA with eight strikeouts across 13 innings.
Dan Haren will counter for the Nationals against Lannan. He has been great for Washington since coming off the DL, earning a 2.40 ERA over five starts. However, in his seven career starts against Philadelphia, Haren’s teams have a 0-7 record.
If Haren can reverse that trend at Nationals Park on Friday night, he could help his team halt their quickly spinning downward spiral, and give Nats fans a reason to cheer, which they have been sorely missing over the last week.
In The Zone
Jayson Werth (RF) .563 AVG, .650 OBP, .813 SLG, 1 HR (last six games)
Darin Ruf (LF) .348 AVG, .423 OBP, .783 SLG, 3 HR (last six games)
Chase Utley (2B) .333 AVG, .391 OBP, .667 SLG, 1 HR (last six games)
Jimmy Rollins (SS) .190 AVG, .227 OBP, .238 SLG, 2 SO (last five games)
John Mayberry (RF) .182 AVG, .217 OBP, .364 SLG, 6 SO (last six games)
8/9, Dan Haren (6-11, 5.14 ERA, .282 BAA, 99 SO) vs. John Lannan (3-4, 4.10 ERA, .280 BAA, 34 SO)
8/10, Taylor Jordan (1-3, 3.76 ERA, .283 BAA, 23 SO) vs. Cliff Lee (10-5, 3.13 ERA, .235 BAA, 139 SO)
8/11, Stephen Strasburg (5-9, 3.01 ERA, .210 BAA, 143 SO) vs. Kyle Kendrick (10-8, 4.36 ERA, .271 BAA, 86 SO)