Even with Phillies down, Nats know journey to pennant goes through Philly

The Nationals head on the road to Philadelphia and Miami for the next six days, but they have felt right at home living out of a suitcase this season.

Another major component of why the Nationals are so good this year has been their ability to play their best baseball on the road. The 41-23 record (.641) is six victories better than their nearest competition. Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Baltimore and Cincinnati all have 35 wins away from home.

The Nationals have won 14 of their last 17 games on the road because they score more runs away from Nationals Park and continue to pitch very well. The Nationals have tallied 303 runs, second in the National League behind the Giants (324) and third in the major leagues on the road.

By contrast, their next opponent, the perennial NL East pennant-winning Phillies, have managed only 248 runs at Citizens Bank Park this season, ranking 19th in the majors. Philadelphia does not get on base enough at home, either, with just a .316 on-base percentage, good for only 23rd in the major leagues.

The Nats also allow only 3.15 ERA away from D.C. That is the top earned run average in the majors on the road. Cincinnati is the next closest at 3.37 ERA, and the Reds have allowed 15 more runs on the road than the Nationals.

Washington has 588 hits on the road, second to the Giants’ 615 in the National League. Offensive superlatives include 137 doubles away from Nats Park, second in the major leagues to the Mets’ 138.

The Nationals have crushed 71 homers on the road, second to the Pirates’ amazing 83 round-trippers on the road in the senior circuit. Big hits by the Nationals are apparent in enemy territory, too, with a slugging percentage of .427, third in all of baseball.

The overall batting average for the Nationals away from D.C. is .261, tied for third with the Mets in the National League. The Giants lead the category at .271.

The Nationals OPS (on-base plus slugging) is a whopping .749 on the road in the National League, just percentage points behind the Cardinals’ .753.

So the numbers again favor the Nationals in Philadelphia for the weekend series in a place the team has not had that much success over the years. The Nats are down 83-54 to the Phillies since arriving in D.C. in 2005. Before a 10-8 series win for the Nationals in 2011, the franchise had won just two of the previous 14 season series.

But recently, the Nationals have turned the series in their favor. With the 3-0 win against the Phillies in D.C. on Aug. 2, Washington has now won 10 of their last 14 against the Phillies, and 14 of their last 20 overall.

Washington is 5-4 against the Phillies this season, and 2-1 at Citizens Bank Park this season.

That means they have still half of their season series to play against Philadelphia.

Interesting to note that the Nationals still have six games against the Phillies in the City of Brotherly Love: three this weekend and then three at the end of September (25-27). They also finish the regular season with three against the Phillies at Nationals Park from Oct. 1-3.

So even with the Phillies below .500 this late in the season, they still can be a major part of deciding how things will end up for the first-place team from D.C.

But these Nationals, in this season, wouldn’t want it any other way.

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