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Philadelphia Phillies vs. Washington Nationals Series Preview: What could’ve been

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The Washington Nationals’ playoff hopes are bleak, and they’re going to need to sweep Philadelphia if they have any chance of getting back in the race.

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Phillies (68-56) vs. Nationals (62-63) series info:

Game 1: Tuesday, Aug. 21 at 7:05 p.m. ET (MASN2/106.7 The Fan)

Game 2: Wednesday, Aug. 22 at 7:05 p.m. ET (MASN/106.7)

Game 3: Thursday, Aug. 23 at 1:05 p.m. ET (MASN/ESPN+/106.7)

Pitching matchups:

Tuesday: Vince Velasquez (8-9, 4.13 ERA) vs. Tanner Roark (8-12, 4.13)

Wednesday: Zach Eflin (9-4, 3.70) vs. Stephen Strasburg (6-7, 3.90)

Thursday: Aaron Nola (14-3, 2.24) vs. Max Scherzer (16-5, 2.11)

What to watch for:

Strasburg makes his return

Having only made one start since June 8, Stephen Strasburg has spent a majority of this stretch run rehabbing from separate shoulder and neck injuries. Strasburg has only pitched 85.1 innings thus far this year, which likely means he’ll fail to eclipse 150 innings for the third time in four seasons.

Although he’s shown flashes of brilliance, Strasburg will still have a lot to prove when he steps on the mound Wednesday after some shaky performances prior to his injuries. He hasn’t made it out of the seventh inning since May 7.

A duel between the aces

Get out the popcorn, folks. Thursday afternoon is going to be a good one. Aaron Nola has quietly been one of the best pitchers in baseball this season, not leading the league in any major categories but generating a lot of weak contact and boasting an above-average strikeout rate.

Meanwhile, Max Scherzer is in serious contention for his third straight Cy Young award. With Jacob deGrom neck and neck with the Nationals’ ace, Scherzer will need another outstanding performance to keep his name in the running.

Nats can’t take advantage of Phillies’ sluggish play

Over their last 13 games, the Phillies have won just five times and just dropped three of five to the lowly New York Mets. Washington has actually lost half a game in the standings in the span, and now sits seven and a half games back of the Atlanta Braves for the top spot in the division.

With only 37 games left on the schedule, there isn’t a lot of hope left for the Nationals. They’re not mathematically eliminated just yet, but it’s going to take nothing short of a miracle for them to make any kind of playoff push.

Series history:

The Phillies lead the all-time series (2005-present) by a margin of 132-119, including six wins in 10 games played between the two clubs this season. Washington has been the superior club in its home ballpark, however, boasting a .516 winning percentage against Philadelphia at Nationals Park.