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Washington Nationals Series Preview: Depleted Nats take on the Philadelphia Phillies

After a stunning trade of Josh Bell and Juan Soto, the Nationals head onto the Philadelphia to face the Phillies...

MLB: JUL 07 Nationals at Phillies Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

There isn’t much else to say at this point about the Washington Nationals and their trade deadline deal that sent Juan Soto and Josh Bell to the San Diego Padres

The Nationals still had a series to play — and they even won their first game without Soto and Bell, while facing Jacob deGrom, of all starters — but nobody could blame fans at Nats Park if they were feeling a little bit numb to the game given what happened on Tuesday.

At the end of it, the result on the field was familiar, dropping two of three to the New York Mets.

Next, the Nats will face the team of another former young superstar who now plies his trade elsewhere when they visit Citizens Bank Park to take on Bryce Harper’s Philadelphia Phillies.

(We’re aware that Harper is still out injured for the Phillies. The segue was too hard to pass up.)

After a wretched start to the season, the Phillies continue to remain steady in the playoff race, and currently hold the third and final wild card spot in the National League, just half a game ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals.

That led them to add at the trade deadline, acquiring David Robertson, Brandon Marsh, and Noah Syndergaard, a familiar face in the NL East, and one who will start in the series opener.

Here’s the lowdown from Philadelphia ahead of the four-game weekend series...

The schedule

  • Game One: Thursday, August 4th, 7:05 pm EDT. TV: MASN, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • Game Two: Friday, August 5th, 7:05 pm EDT. TV: Apple TV+, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • Game Three: Saturday, August 6th, 6:05 pm EDT. TV: MASN, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • Game Four: Sunday, August 7th, 1:35 pm EDT. TV: MASN and MLB Network (out-of-market only), Radio: 106.7 The Fan

Probable Pitchers

  • Game One: Paolo Espino (0-3, 3.78 ERA) vs Noah Syndergaard (5-8, 3.83 ERA)
  • Game Two: Josiah Gray (7-7, 4.59 ERA) vs Kyle Gibson (6-4, 4.60 ERA)
  • Game Three: Patrick Corbin (4-15, 6.57 ERA) vs Ranger Suárez (7-5, 3.60 ERA)
  • Game Four: Cory Abbott (0-0, 1.00 ERA) vs Aaron Nola (7-8, 3.25 ERA)

Who’s hot?

Hunter Harvey: With the Soto and Bell trade, I’m not expecting many hitters in this section.

Harvey has been a rare bright spot for the Nationals of late though. Since July 13th, Harvey has pitched 10 innings out of the bullpen, and while his 3.60 ERA looks ok, his 1.02 FIP stands out thanks to striking out 14 batters in those 10 innings while walking just one batter.

After an injury-affected start to his first season with the Nationals, the right-handed reliever is looking more and more like a nice pickup for the team and could see some higher-leverage spots soon.

Ranger Suárez: Earlier this season, it looked as though Suárez was struggling to replicate the dazzling form that he showed for the Phillies last year. In the month of July though, the left-hander appeared to return to that dominance.

In three July starts, Suárez tossed 16 innings without allowing an earned run for the Phillies — though there were three unearned runs — while striking out 16 and walking just two in 16 innings.

Suárez is set to start the third game of the series against fellow left-hander, Patrick Corbin. Based on the recent results of those two pitchers, that’s a pretty big mismatch for the Nats.

Who’s not?

Maikel Franco: Having lost his third base job to Ehire Adrianza before his trade to the Atlanta Braves, Franco may be in line for some more playing time at the hot corner.

Not that he’s a particularly appealing option there based on recent performance. In 25 post-All-Star Game plate appearances, Franco is slashing a horrendous .080/.080/.080 — yes, that means he’s gotten just two hits, both singles, without a walk.

The Nationals even gave Ildemaro Vargas a game at third base in Wednesday’s series finale against the Mets. So, perhaps Franco could be losing out on more playing time moving forward.

Brandon Marsh: In one of the more surprising deadline day moves, the Phillies made a splash by trading highly-rated catching prospect Logan O’Hoppe for Marsh to help sure up their outfield, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.

While the defensive side of Marsh’s game isn’t in question, his offensive impact is still up for debate. Since June 14th, the former Angel is slashing just .173/.235/.291 with seven extra-base hits in 39 appearances, striking out 53 times and drawing only eight walks.

He’ll need to hit much better than he has so far in his limited major league time to make this trade worth it for the Phillies, but clearly, their front office believes he will turn it around.

From the opposing dugout

Check out some of the top Phillies storylines from our friends at The Good Phight...

One more thing to watch

Caught up in all of the Juan Soto, Josh Bell, and prospect talk from the last few days is Luke Voit, who also came over to the Nationals in the big deal on Tuesday.

Originally, it was supposed to be Eric Hosmer coming to the Nationals in the deal. However, the former Kansas City Royal nixed that by invoking his no-trade clause — and who could blame him for not wanting to come and be part of the mess that’s in Washington.

So, as an alternative, the Nationals ended up with Voit to man first base in the short term.

You have to feel some sympathy for Voit who, when baseball fans look back on the trade, will just be a footnote, and goes from a team in the thick of a postseason race to one in a deep rebuild.

Either way, he’s with the Nationals now, and the skipper says he’ll make his debut in this series.

“He’s going to meet us in Philly,” manager Dave Martinez told reporters on Wednesday. “He’s going to DH, he’s going to play some first base.

“I talked to him on the phone yesterday, and I told him that you know, ‘Hey, we’re getting young here, and I expect him to come here and give good effort, but help the younger players as well.

“He’s been in the league for quite some time, so just go out there and we could definitely use your bat in our lineup. He can hit. So, I’m looking forward to getting to know him, getting him in the lineup as soon as he comes here, whether it’s tomorrow or the following day, and get him going.”

Voit is under team control through the 2024 season. It’s not hard to imagine a scenario where Voit hits his way to being traded back to a contender at some point, as he’s got a track record of being a good major league hitter.

For now, though, he has to ride out this season with the flailing Nationals. Not ideal.

Series Preview Trivia

Last series’ trivia question: Max Scherzer is back at Nationals Park this week, and the former Nat has been traded twice in his career. The first time, when he went from the Arizona Diamondbacks to the Detroit Tigers, which future Nationals player was also involved, went the other way to Arizona?

Answer: Edwin Jackson

Sorry, sorry. But our trivia question for this series also branches off of a tangent from the Soto trade. We apologize for overdoing it, but at least the answer isn’t Soto, I guess!

With Juan Soto and Josh Bell traded away from the Nationals, only one player remains on the Nationals’ active roster that has hit a home run at Citizens Bank Park for the Nationals. Who is that player? Bonus point if you can name the other player in the Nationals organization, but not on the active roster, to hit a home run at CBP for the Nationals.