Washington Nationals’ bench coach Chip Hale, filling in for manager Davey Martinez as the skipper went for a follow-up with his doctor after last week’s health scare, talked to the D.C. press corps on Monday about the rivalry with the Philadelphia Phillies heading into the final series this season with their divisional opponent.
The Phillies started the series on the brink of elimination from the National League’s Wild Card race, while the Nationals, barring a complete collapse in the last week, were trying, over the final eight games, to lock up home field for what looks like it will be a win-or-go-home matchup with Milwaukee.
The Nats and Phillies’ respective records, Hale said, weren’t likely to make the matchup any less intense.
“It’s a division where we play each other so much, and there’s a rivalry there,” Hale said.
“They’re right up the road from us, it’s a big rivalry, so I don’t think it would matter what the records were, we want to beat them, they love to beat us, we’ve had some really great battles this year, and I’m expecting all five games to be battles. Just like in Miami, they played us tough, we won 2 out of 3, would have been beautiful to get the last one, but they earned it. They came back and beat us, so I feel like it’s going to be the same way all five games here.”
Washington started the series 9-5 against Philadelphia in 2019, with a 4-1 mark at home in the nation’s capital, and a 5-4 record in Citizens Bank Park, having won five of the last six against their divisional rivals, and they made it six of seven with the 7-2 win in the first of five in Nationals Park.
With their magic number down to 3, the Nationals could potentially lock things up today, but the second-year skipper said he wanted the team to approach the doubleheader the same way they’ve approached the previous 155 games.
“It’s been the same message every day, ‘Hey, let’s just take care of tomorrow,” Martinez said last night.
“Tomorrow we’ve got a doubleheader, let’s just win the first game and we’ll go from there. It’s been that same message almost the whole year, ‘Let’s go 1-0.’ That’s how we got to this point. I don’t want them to think too far ahead, let’s just keep playing good baseball. Like I said, our [starting] pitching is doing well, our bullpen has pitched really well today, we got some key hits, we came out swinging the bats, hit some homers early, got an early lead, but the at bats were good. I don’t know how many walks we got, but we got a lot of walks, I know [Juan] Soto had four, but that was great, when these guys take their walks they’re really good.”
They took nine walks total on Monday, two with the bases loaded. Will they remain calm and take what the Phillies’ pitchers give them and avoid pressing as they get closer to claiming a spot in the Wild Card game?