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Washington Nationals Series #14 Preview: Phillies Opposition Research

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The Phillies are on a hot streak of sorts. They may be seven games behind the Nationals, but they have been won seven of their past ten games. 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.

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The Phillies have been working hard since they last played the Nats a month ago.  They just split a four game series in Colorado.  They swept the Diamondbacks before that.  The Phillies have not had an off day in two weeks.  The Nationals had two off days this week and some of them (see Harper, Bryce) have not played much at all since last weekend.  The season series stands at Nats 4, Phillies 3.  If the Nats want to prove that they are the best team in the NL East, they should crush this team.

Unfortunately, it doesn't look like the Phillies plan to roll over easy just because they aren't that great.  Sure, their bats are legitimately terrible.  They don't get on base (.297 OBP vs .329 for Nats) and they lack power (24 HR vs 47 for Nats).  That doesn't make it easier to get by Aaron Harang (a top 10 pitcher this year) and Cole Hamels, who has overcome his early struggles and is on a roll.  Let's take a closer look at the matchups.

Friday, 7:05 pm - Max Scherzer vs Sean O'Sullivan
The Phillies #6 starter is starting his 5th game of the season and his 3rd against the Nationals.  In early April he allowed 6 runs in 11 innings while facing the Nats, but in his start last week he made it through 6 innings without allowing a run.  He faces Scherzer, who is back to his dominant ways.  Edge to Scherzer, but the Nats bats really need to back him up to get the Nats off to a good start.

Saturday, 4:05 pm - Stephen Strasburg vs Cole Hamels
Cole Hamels has a solid 3.24 ERA on the year, but most of his starts have been excellent.  Over his last three starts he has an ERA of 1.69.  The Nats have beat him once this year, but as much as their bats have improved, so has he.  Strasburg has a 9.53 ERA over his past three games.  Maybe the Phillies bats are just what the doctor ordered, but Hamels has the edge here.

Sunday, 1:35 pm - Gio Gonzalez vs Aaron Harang
Harang has a 1.82 ERA on the year.  He lost his last game thanks to 3 unearned runs but has not allowed an earned run in two weeks. Gio gave up 6 earned runs last game, and 5 the time before that.  Gio has shown glimpses of stuff, but it's results that wins games.  Big edge to Harang in this matchup.  The Nats will need to step it up to win.

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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.  Odubel Herrera and Cody Asche are the names to watch.

CF -  Ben Revere
+++ speed
- glove
-- power (lefty)
Revere has locked down the leadoff spot with a .300 OBP.  There really isn't much competition and his speed does help when he gets on base, though he has only stolen 9 bases so far.
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SS - Freddy Galvis
+ glove
+? bat (switch-hitter)
+ speed

Galvis has cooled to a more reasonable .319/.380/.368 since the Nats last saw him.  He destroys lefties, so look out Gio.
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2B - Chase Utley
+ bat
+ glove

Utley got demoted to the #6 spot a week ago for his abhorrent display at the plate.  Since that day, he has a six game hitting streak where he is batting .375 with 4 BB and 1 K.  His line for the season is .169/.250/.292 (-0.7 fWAR).

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1B - Ryan Howard
++ power (lefty)
-- glove
The last time these teams met, Howard's OBP had hit .148.  He has turned things around in a big way and was one of the hottest hitters in baseball in the past month, batting around .300 with 9 HR.
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3B - Maikel Franco
+ bat 
+ glove
Franco was called up as a defensive upgrade over the struggling Cody Asche (who was sent to the minors to learn the outfield).  So far, he has batted a respectable .259/.333/.481 through seven games.
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RF - Sizemore/Francoeur
- bats
- gloves

An uninspiring duo, Grady Sizemore and Jeff Francoeur continue to battle for playing time.  Neither is winning that battle, and the team suffers as a result.
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CF - Odubel Herrera
- bat (lefty)
- glove so far
+ speed
Herrera has been dropped down in the lineup, but this Rule 5 draft pick still has the CF job locked down.  His bat is uninspiring, but the rest of the outfield makes him look good.
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C - Carlos Ruiz
+ glove
average bat
Ruiz's hot start is far behind him.  In the past month, his OBP has dropped from .400 to .336 and his bat is now looking unseasonably weak.

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The Phillies Bullpen

Over the past month, the Phillies bullpen has dropped from a 2.70 ERA to a 3.40 ERA.  Their 1.54 WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) still trails the majors, though it has improved slightly since they last faced the Nats.

Jonathan Papelbon continues to be lights out, as is Ken Giles (who is looking to build on last year's rookie dominance).

There are no awful pitchers in the Phillies bullpen except for lefty Jake Diekman, who has been allowing more than two baserunners per inning.  Diekman has not had success vs lefties so far.

Can They Be Swept?

Those pitching matchups do not look good, but the Nationals bats do outclass the Phillies lineup handily.  If the bats can break through vs Hamels and Harang, then these games are definitely winnable.  It's the Phillies.  The Nats are well rested and hungry for more winning.  Also Bryce Harper.

Clearly, it would be a shame if the Nats don't  win every game.  One does not win 145 games by losing games.  The Nats have shown the ability to not-lose games vs much better teams like the Yankees, and this would be a terrible time to cool off.  Let's root for three more wins. In a row.

Never give up!  Never surrender!  Eat lots of ice cream with chocolate syrup!