The Nationals just finished a four game sweep against one of the weakest teams in baseball, the Atlanta Braves. "That was a heck of a homestand", said manager Dusty Baker. "Hopefully now, we can take this to the road." Too bad they can't play another team like that anytime soon. Oh, wait.
The Nats will head up to Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia to face off against the Phillies in a three game weekend series, starting tonight, on Jackie Robinson Day. Joe Ross will get the ball, starting the first game.
Dusty Baker was impressed with the righty after his first start last Sunday.
"The game appears slow to Joe," said Baker. "He knows what he's doing, and he's not intimidated by any situation."
Against the Marlins on April 10th, Ross went seven innings, and gave up only one run and five hits.
Another strong performance in that April 10th game came from Bryce Harper, who went two for three. The outfielder recorded his 100th home run on Thursday, a grand slam off of Julio Teheran of the Braves.
Harper hopes that the grand slam, which broke a 1-11 spell for him, will kickstart things.
"I'm ready to move on, and get going some more," Harper said in an interview with Dan Kolko.
Another player looking to "get going some more" is Gio Gonzalez. Gonzalez, who, due to an anomaly in the schedule, has only pitched one game this season, will get the ball on Sunday.
The lefty enjoyed a successful season debut in which he pitched six innings, and only gave up three hits without allowing a single run.
Bryce Harper had kind words for Gonzalez after his first start on Tuesday. "I thought Gio looked great. That's big time stuff right there. That's the stuff we need out of him every time that he goes out there," said Harper.
"Gio was very sharp," said Dusty Baker. "You wouldn't know that he had missed two weeks."
"It's one of those things.", Gonzalez noted in his interview with Johnny Holliday and Ray Knight. "To finally get out there. It took a while."
If last year was any indication, the Phillies will be a good launching pad for Gonzalez. In four starts, the lefty had a 2.92 ERA versus Philadelphia, and only gave up 8 runs in 24.2 innings.
Generally, Philadelphia should be a good launching pad for the entire Nationals team.
Although the Phillies have a 5-5 record to start the season, a weak early schedule has played into their favor, (and, much to the Nationals' delight, they took two of three from the Mets) and as a team firmly in rebuilding mode, it is clear to most of the league that they'll even out.
They likely won't prove to be a challenge for the Nationals, who have now won five in a row, but with Jeremy Hellickson on the mound tonight, it would be wise, to some extent, to expect the unexpected.
Here's what to watch for in Philly
Harper Homer Watch
Although he lacks experience against this current Phillies pitching staff, Harper has hit 8 home runs at Citizens Bank Park in his career, including his 40th of 2015 last season.
The Nationals really enjoy hitting against Charlie Morton
The longtime Pittsburgh Pirates stalwart has a 7.18 ERA versus the Nationals in 31.1 innings pitched against them. Morton will start on Saturday against Gio Gonzalez.
This is a weekend Daniel Murphy has probably been looking forward to for a while. The second baseman, in his career, has absolutely owned Phillies pitching, hitting at a .310 clip in 104 career games against Philadelphia
Friday, April 15th: Nationals vs Phillies, 7:05 PM (MASN, WJFK)
Probable Pitchers: Joe Ross (1-0, 1.29 ERA) vs Jeremy Hellickson (1-0, 1.54 ERA)
Saturday, April 16th: Nationals vs Phillies, 7:05 PM (MASN, WDCH 99.1)
Probable Pitchers: Max Scherzer (1-0, 4.15 ERA) vs Aaron Nola (0-1, 3.21 ERA)
Sunday, April 17th: Nationals vs Phillies, 1:35 PM (MASN, WUSA 9, WJFK)
Probable Pitchers: Gio Gonzalez (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs Charlie Morton (1-1, 5.23 ERA)