Coming off a win against the Miami Marlins that prevented a series sweep in South Beach, the Washington Nationals (58-47) return home for a series against the scuffling Philadelphia Phillies (47-61).
This series begins hours after the trade deadline, which had interesting results for both teams. The Nationals acquired shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera from the Cleveland Indians in exchange for utility infielder Zach Walters. Cabrera is likely to be the starter at second base immediately, and while he may not have great range, he has a good glove and will be a significant offensive upgrade over Danny Espinosa. The Phillies, on the other hand, surprised everyone by standing pat. Before the deadline, rumors flew about nearly every Phillie, and especially Marlon Byrd, A.J. Burnett, Cole Hamels, and Jonathan Papelbon. But General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said after the deadline that the team received no worthwhile offers, and chose not to move any players. Of course, the team can and likely will move players via the waiver process in August, but those trades are much more difficult to orchestrate than trades before July 31.
With an identical squad, the Phillies appear likely to continue their low standard of play so far in the second half. Despite having played more games at home than on the road, Philadelphia has won just one of its second-half series, a 2-1 decision over the lowly Arizona Diamondbacks at home.
But the Nationals may not have such an easy matchup. The Phillies will run out their three best pitchers against the Nats: Hamels, Burnett, and Cliff Lee, intermixed with an appearance from Roberto Hernandez. Burnett had a difficult July, with an ERA near 5.00, but Hamels was dominant, posting a 1.94 ERA. Lee will be making just his third start back from an elbow injury against the Nats. He looked rusty in the first, giving up six runs in 5.2 innings, but limited his opponent to just three runs in five innings in his second start. Regardless, the former Cy Young winner is never an easy matchup.
The Nationals open their eight-game homestand after concluding a 5-4 road trip, and with the Atlanta Braves opening a tough stretch of their schedule, the Nats could pounce on this opportunity to widen their 1.5 game lead in the NL East. But the Phillies are no pushovers, and will certainly have something to say about this division race, even if they’re out of it.
In The Zone (all stats from past week)
Denard Span (CF) .381/.551/.381, 183 wRC+, 0.5 WAR
Chase Utley (2B) .368/.556/.579, 225 wRC+, 0.6 WAR
Anthony Rendon (3B) .292/.414/.375, 132 wRC+, 0.3 WAR
Ben Revere (CF) .333/.360/.458, 131 wRC+, 0.2 WAR
Adam LaRoche (1B) .174/.231/.217, -0.2 WAR, 24 wRC+
Cody Asche (3B) .200/.259/.320, -0.1 WAR, 62 wRC+
Probable Pitchers (full season)
7/31, LHP Gio Gonzalez (6-6, 3.56 ERA, 3.15 FIP, 9.42 K/9) vs. LHP Cliff Lee (5-4, 3.78 ERA, 3.06 FIP, 7.78 K/9)
8/1, RHP Doug Fister (10-2, 2.69 ERA, 3.87 FIP, 5.38 K/9) vs. RHP Roberto Hernandez (5-8, 4.14 ERA, 4.74 FIP, 5.73 K/9)
8/2, RHP Jordan Zimmermann (6-5, 3.17 ERA, 2.84 FIP, 8.18 K/9) vs. RHP A.J. Burnett (6-10, 4.15 ERA, 3.99 FIP, 7.40 K/9)
8/3, RHP Stephen Strasburg (7-9, 3.55 ERA, 2.83 FIP, 10.41 K/9) vs. LHP Cole Hamels (6-5, 2.55 ERA, 2.90 FIP, 9.18 K/9)