The Phillies are coming off there first series win since the all-star break, taking two out of three against the NL Central Cubs. They head to the nations capital for a weekend series to take on another disappointing NL East team, last year’s 98-win Washington Nationals. Neither team is going to the playoffs as the recent Braves hot streak has put the division away early. They hold a 15.5 game lead on the 2nd place Nationals.
Expectations were high for the Nats this year after winning the division last year and adding Denard Span to play CF, allowing Bryce Harper to move to LF. The addition of Rafael Soriano figured to bolster an already good bullpen moving by Tyler Clippard into the setup role. Span’s arrival marked the departure of Mike Morse, but all things considered the Nats appeared to be an improved team heading into the 2013 season. The Phils have battled injuries, inconsistent hitting and a terrible bullpen this year as they’ve now fallen to 4th place in the division. They’re now playing youngsters Cody Asche and Darin Ruf on a regular basis to see how ready they are to compete for a job in 2014, while hard-throwing Ethan Martin has also got the call and could finish the season taking the mound every 5th day the rest of the season, as the Phils gear up for 2014.
Friday night we’ll see the Nat’s disappointing 4th starter, right-hander Dan Haren 6-11, 5.14 ERA take on the Phils 5th starter lefty John Lannan 3-4, 4.10 ERA. Lannan spent a month on the DL earlier this season, marking the first time in his 7-year major league career he’s been on the disabled list. Since returning to action on June 17th Lannan has gone 3-3 in nine starts while posting a respectable 3.56 ERA. In his last three starts Lannan is 1-1 with a ND. Two of those three starts Lannan failed to get through the 5th inning and has posted a 4.26 ERA. He’s faced Washington twice this year, both Phillies wins, allowing just two ER in 13 innings.
Dan Haren arrived in Washington as a free agent, signing with a one-year deal with the Nats for $13,000,000. To say he’s been a disappointment would be an understatement. The Nats are 6-14 in games he’s started and he leads the NL with 21 HR’s allowed. In Haren’s three starts against the Phils this year the Nats are 0-3 with Haren taking the loss once and pitching to two ND’s. Lately Haren has been pitching better, going 2-1 in his last three starts with a 2.84 ERA.
Saturday night the Phils send struggling ace Cliff Lee 10-5, 3.13 ERA to the mound to face rookie right-hander Tyler Jordan 1-3, 3.76 ERA. Lee is 0-3 in his last three starts, allowing 24 hits over 18 innings. His ERA has risen over half a run since June 29th when it was 2.59 after a victory over the Braves. It’s not uncommon to see the usually dependable Lee go through one or two tough spells a season where he’s giving up the long ball (7 of his 16 HR’s allowed came in two of the three games in the current losing streak) and not commanding his pitches with the pinpoint accuracy he’s known for. Lee is 1-1, 3.60 against the Nationals this year but is 6-4, 2.74 lifetime against them.
Tyler Jordan, the 24-year old rookie right-hander is making his 8th start for the Nationals. He’s faced the Phils once in a game the Nats lost 4-2 on July 9th. In that game Jordan went 5.2 innings allowing 8 hits, 4 runs, 3 of which were earned. In his last three starts Jordan is 1-1 with a ND. His ERA in that span is 4.26. Jordan has good control allowing only 7 walks in in 40.2 innings, but isn’t blowing anyone away as demonstrated by his low strikeout total of 23.
Sunday’s twilight start time of 5.05 PM could spell trouble for the Phils hitters as the Nats send Stephen Strasburg 5-9, 3.01 ERA to the hill against a fading Kyle Kendrick 10-8, 4.36 ERA. Kendrick who is entering his final year of arbitration eligibility has ten starts left to show the Phils who he really is. In Kendrick’s first 12 starts he was 6-3 with a 3.12 ERA. It looked as if the versatile Kendrick, who has filled many roles in his six plus seasons with the Phils had finally arrived as a solid number 3 starter. His last 11 starts we’ve seen a different Kyle Kendrick. In those 11 starts he’s 4-5 with a 5.94 ERA. Will the real Kyle Kendrick please stand up? These next 10 starts will go a long way in determining what the Phils do this off-season. In Kendrick’s last 3 starts he’s 1-2 with a 8.36 ERA. In three starts against the Nats this year he’s 1-1 with a ND. He’s pitched well against the Nats in his 3 starts going 22.2 innings with a 2.78 ERA this year.
Strasburg has pitched much better than his 5-9 record would indicate. The hard throwing right hander has been the victim of very little run support all year. His 1.070 WHIP and 9.4 SO’s per nine innings is among the best among NL starters. The former number 1 pick in the 2009 amateur draft has only faced the Phils once this year back on May 26th where he went 8 innings, giving up 5 hits and 1 run while striking out 9. Lifetime against the Phils Strasburg is 1-1 with a 4.43 ERA in only 4 starts. In Strasburg’s last three starts he’s 0-2 despite going 22 innings while only allowing 11 hits and striking out 26. His ERA in those games is 3.27.
In a season where both teams have been bitter disappointments to their fans, this is a mostly meaningless series now. Young players are trying to earn jobs for 2014 and some veterans fates will be decided in the next two months. That’s all these two teams seem to be playing for this weekend.