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Washington Nationals Series #2 Preview: Phillies Opposition Research

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You may know the Nationals, but how well do you know the teams that they crush into the dust on this epic quest of domination? To prepare you for this series, here is a primer on the Philadelphia Phillies. Learn their strengths and weaknesses and take your job as armchair manager to new heights.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

So, it turned out that the Mets were a bit of a challenge for the Nats, though some argue that the Nats simply found a way to beat themselves.  The season is not over yet, however.  There are still 159 regular season games to be won.  This next three game series will pit the Nationals up against a team that is reputed to be one of the worst in baseball this year.  The Phillies just took one of three games in their opening series vs the Red Sox.  Now they welcome the Nationals to Philly for the weekend.

Friday, 7:05 pm - Gio Gonzalez vs Jerome Williams
Jerome Williams has bounced around and is starting in the Phillies rotation thanks to a strong nine start showing at the end of last season.  However, he did allow 17 earned runs in 20.2 innings this spring and may not be ready to go toe to toe with Gio yet.  Luckily for him, the Nats' offense has been relatively quiet so far.

Saturday, 7:05 pm - Doug Fister vs Cole Hamels
Everyone knows that Cole Hamels is a great pitcher.  His first start lasted five innings in which he gave up four runs, and he does have a history of weak Aprils, but he is Cole Hamels and he is bound to straighten things out pretty soon.  Is Doug Fister ready for the challenge if he does?

Sunday, 1:35 pm - Max Scherzer vs Sean O'Sullivan
Sean O'Sullivan is filling in as the #5 starter until Chad Billingsley finishes rehab (elbow surgery).  O'Sullivan has been bounced around the league over the past five years, never pitching well enough anywhere to stick in the majors for a whole year.  Some suggest that Scherzer may have the upper hand in this matchup.  Others just laugh.

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The Phillies Lineup

The following lineup is missing CF -  Odubel Herrera, who injured his foot after starting game 1 and as of yesterday was only back to pinch hitting duty.  He'll probably be batting 2nd for several of these games, but since nobody has announced that he's ready to get back on the field I have a great excuse to give him his own section.

Odubel "El Torito" Herrera is a 23 year old Rule 5 draft pick from the Rangers and he is the most exciting story line the Phillies have going right now.  Last year he was a middle infielder at AA.  Now he is the opening day center fielder (he pushes Revere to LF).  He was on fire in the Venezuelan Winter League (MVP and Rookie of the Year honors) and had a great spring training as well.  The Phillies are gambling that he will not only stick with them all year but provide a spark for their lackluster offense. The great news for Herrera is that the bar for sticking in the majors is not all that high on this team, so even if he doesn't put up Rookie of the Year numbers we may be seeing a lot of him all year long.

CF -  Ben Revere
+++ speed
- glove
-- power (lefty)
Revere already has 1 hit and 0 walks in 12 AB batting leadoff, has stolen one base and scored twice.  A slow start, but Revere's game is speed and speed does not take days off.  He has batted over .300 two years in a row and stole 49 bases last year.
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C - Carlos Ruiz
+ defense
average bat
Ruiz started the season strong with 3 singles and 4 walks in three games.  At age 36 he is still going strong when he stays healthy.  His backup, Cameron Rupp, is not going to bat near the top of the lineup.
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2B - Chase Utley
+ bat
+ glove

The silver lining of the Phillies lineup is getting old but he still plays hard.  He stayed health last year and put up very solid numbers.  He only has one hit so far in three games.

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1B - Ryan Howard
+ power (lefty)
-- glove
Ryan Howard stayed healthy last year and hit 23 HRs, but even with that his bat was below league average.  His defense is still terrible as well.  Howard has one hit, a double, in three games.
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LF - Darin Ruf
+ bat
- glove in LF / + glove at 1B
Ruf has yet to stick in the majors for a whole season, but he has shown promise with his bat.  He is hitless in two games with time split between LF and 1B.  He sits when Odubel Herrera starts.
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3B - Cody Asche
- bat (lefty)
average glove

In his third season, Asche is trying to prove that his bat will play in the majors as well as it did in the minors.   He has three hits already.  So far, so good.
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RF - Jeff Francoeur
-- bat
questionable glove
Franceur has started twice already despite being terrible at baseball in recent years.  Terrible.  He already has two hits, including a HR.  Not terrible.  Grady Sizemore also has a start in RF this year.
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SS - Freddy Galvis
average glove
- bat (switch-hitter)

Not much bat.  Not as much glove as promised.  Hey, it's hard to find a great shortstop these days.  Maybe he'll figure things out this year.

This lineup has a lot of lefty bats.  Revere, Herrera, Howard, Ashe, Galvis.  It is too early to tell if this will help them at all.

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The Phillies Bullpen

Let's keep it short and sweet.  There are some good pitchers in this bullpen just in case they ever get a lead.  Jonathan Papelbon is still really good.  Ken Giles is even better these days.  Justin De Fratus had a good year last year.  The rest of the pen is much less exciting, though lefty Jake Diekman knows how to strike people out and in theory can be overpowering as well.

Can They Be Swept?

It is possible, if the Nationals learn to hit the ball.  The Phillies roster with its mix of very old and very young players is in a state of transition and not-strength.  Every pitching matchup favors the Nationals, though Hamels will probably try to dispute that.  If the Nats bats cannot wake up against the non-Hamels starters, then expect cries of DOOOOOOOOM to ring out far and wide.  Even without Span, Werth and Rendon, they should be able to score a few runs.  They really should.

Taking all that into consideration, it would be a shame if the Nats don't  win every game.  One does not win 160 games by losing games.  George did not lose to the British, and he does not approve of losing baseball games either.  Neither should you.