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Phillies vs. Nationals Series Preview: Nats roll into NL battle winners of five straight

The Washington Nationals have the chance to gain some ground in the division with a three-game slate against the Philadelphia Phillies.

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Tampa Bay Rays Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Phillies (17-13) vs. Nationals (16-16) series info:

Game 1: Friday, May 4 at 7:05 p.m. EST (MASN/106.7 The Fan)

Game 2: Saturday, May 5 at 4:05 p.m. EST (MASN/106.7)

Game 3: Sunday, May 6 at 1:35 p.m. EST (MASN/106.7)

Pitching matchups:

Friday: Nick Pivetta (1-1, 1.33 ERA) vs. Gio Gonzalez (3-2, 2.67)

Saturday: Vince Velasquez (1-4, 5.70) vs. Tanner Roark (2-2, 3.55)

Sunday: Jake Arrieta (3-1, 3.49) vs. Max Scherzer (6-1, 1.79)

What to watch for:

Bryce Harper, leadoff man extraordinaire

The Nats’ right fielder responded well to his first taste of the leadoff spot in five years, hitting .333 (4 for 12) with two homers, four runs scored and six RBIs. He walked just once over the three games after accumulating an MLB-high 38 free passes in April. Martinez said he’s going to “let it ride for a couple days,” so it’s unclear how long Harper will maintain the No. 1 spot in the lineup. However, with both Adam Eaton and Daniel Murphy slow to return from the disabled list, Harper’s stint could last until more reinforcements arrive.

Two former Cy Young winners square off

For the second time this season, Max Scherzer will pitch against a fellow winner of the award for the top pitcher in the National League. Jake Arrieta is coming off a rough start against the Miami Marlins in which he gave up six earned runs over 3.2 innings but had pitched into the seventh in each of his previous three starts. Scherzer, who was named the NL Pitcher of the Month for April, has yet to allow more than two earned runs in a start thus far this season.

Rhys Hoskins is more than just homers

Following a rookie campaign in which he hit 18 homers in 50 games, Rhys Hoskins had high expectations for the 2018 season. Although he’s only managed to hit four long balls over the first 30 contests of this campaign, Hoskins has accrued the second most walks in the NL (behind only Harper) and the third-best on-base percentage (bested by Harper and Tommy Pham). Amazingly enough, he’s only five months younger than Harper.

Series history:

The Phillies lead the all-time series (2005-present) 126-115 but the Nats hold the edge since 2012 with a mark of 66-47. Washington won 11 of 18 games between the two clubs last season, posting a 7-3 record at Nationals Park.