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Washington Nationals Series #4 Preview: Phillies Opposition Research

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You may know the Nationals, but how well do you know the teams that they beat into a pulp using their new-found offensive abilities? 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.

Kids like Herrera are the future. Wait.. make that the present.
Kids like Herrera are the future. Wait.. make that the present.
Al Bello/Getty Images

Sure, so the Phillies managed to take the last series from the Nats.  Has anything changed in the past three days?  Why, yes it has.  The Nationals offense has awoken from its slumber and that could be a game-changer.  How are the Phillies doing?  They have the same record as the Nats.  Their offense is worse.  Their pitching is worse.  Simply put, this should be a great opportunity to take the next step toward blowing through the remaining 153 regular season games with style.  There are four games in this series at Nationals Park, which equals an opportunity for four Curly Ws!

Thursday, 7:05 pm - Doug Fister vs Cole Hamels
This is Hamels' third start and Fister's second start.  They faced each other last Saturday and neither got away with the win.  Can Hamels handle the new and improve Nats offense?  Can Fister maintain his shiny ERA for the rest of the season?  Come find out tonight!

Friday, 7:05 pm - Max Scherzer vs Sean O'Sullivan
This is the premier matchup this week.  Max Scherzer has been doing acey things but not winning.  Sean O'Sullivan had a solid start last Sunday but and has been feeling pretty good about it.  The Nats ended up winning Sunday's game, but Scherzer and O'Sullivan decided they needed a grudge match and plan to have one of them walk away with the win this time.  Welcome to Scherzerdome!

Saturday, 1:05 pm - Jordan Zimmermann vs Aaron Harang
Harang is the Phillies' ace in this young season with a 0.73 ERA and one win after two starts.  Zimmermann is coming off a royal shelling in Boston, but at least he hasn't lost his control.  History shows that Harang should not be this good and that Zimm should not be this bad.

Sunday, 1:35 pm - Stephen Strasburg vs David Buchanan
Buchanan allowed five runs in his start Tuesday vs the Mets.  Strasburg allowed five runs in his start against the Red Sox.  This looks like an even matchup.  Strasburg does have a slight edge in ERA (6.75 vs 11.42), but the difference is probably meaningleSSS.  Go Nats!

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The Phillies Lineup

The Phillies lineup continues to shift, so don't expect the exact order shown here to hold true for all four games. The lineup is still anchored by Utley, but it is the youngsters who are providing all the spark.  Oudbel Herrera and Cody Asche are the names to watch.

CF - Odubel Herrera
solid bat (lefty)
+ glove so far
Herrera is the Rule 5 draft pick that won a starting job and is now leading off for the Phillies.  He hit two doubles and a triple against the Mets on Wednesday, but his .300 OBP to date shows that he is still working on figuring out major league pitchers.
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SS - Freddy Galvis
average glove
- bat (switch-hitter)

After getting five hits in three games versus the Nats, Galvis continued his hot streak with three hits in two games versus the Mets.  His .400 BABIP suggests he will come back down to earth, but his .406 OBP reflects the fact that he is currently on fire.
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2B - Chase Utley
+ bat
+ glove

Utley is still entrenched in the #3 spot, and for good reason.  That reason has nothing to do with his performance at the plate this year, though he did break out for three hits on Tuesday.

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1B - Ryan Howard
+ power (lefty)
-- glove
Howard is struggling badly.  His OBP is down to .148 and he has yet to get a hit off of a lefty this season.
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C - Carlos Ruiz
+ defense
average bat
Ruiz has cooled slightly since last week, going hitless in two games versus the Mets.  His OBP for the season is still .400 though.
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3B - Cody Asche
- bat (lefty)
average glove

Warning: On Fire!  Asche's current line is .500/.571/.667 (with a .688 BABIP) through eight games.  Handle with care.  He is even crushing lefties.
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RF - Grady Sizemore
- bat (lefty)
- glove
Sizemore has been platooning in right field with Jeff Franceur.  Since they will not face Gio, the lefty Sizemore may get the bulk of the starts.  He has two hits this season.  Franceur's bat is more of a threat, though he is not exactly streak hot right now either.
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CF -  Ben Revere
+++ speed
- glove
-- power (lefty)
Remember how this guy was leading off last week?  He now sports a .184 OBP and is really struggling at the plate.

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This lineup still has a lot of lefty bats.  Three straight at the bottom of the order there.

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The Phillies Bullpen

The Phillies bullpen has been getting good results this year, with a 2.70 ERA.  That said, they trail the league with a 1.63 WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched), which means they allow baserunners and that is something that is just waiting to be exploited.

There are two pitchers in the bullpen that have been lights out so far:  Jonathan Papelbon and Luis Garcia.  Everyone else is good news.  Hopefully the Nats can exploit this weakness this time around.

Can They Be Swept?

It's only four games, so yes..  The Phillies do have some hot youngsters and a few solid pitchers, but overall their pitching is some of the worst in baseball and their bats are far from scary as well.  Harang and Hamels will both try to put up a fight, but the Nationals offense is back and that changes everything.  If it's really back, that is.

Clearly, it would be a shame if the Nats don't  win every game.  One does not win 156 games by losing games.  Tom did not write the Declaration of Independence expecting to lose his life and liberty, and he does not approve of losing baseball games either.  Neither should you.