Manager: Ryne Sandberg, second year
Last 10 games: 6-4
Who to watch: 2B Chase Utley (.355/.408/.570, 3 HR, 11 doubles, 14 RBIs); 1B Ryan Howard (.255/.333/.469, 5 HR, 14 RBIs); RHP A.J. Burnett (1-1, 2.15 ERA); LHP Cliff Lee (3-2, 3.29 ERA, 40 K)
Season series vs. Nats (2013): 8-11, 56 runs scored, 94 runs allowed
Still seeking their identity, the Phillies get their first look at the division-rival Nationals.
The Phillies rank in the middle of the pack in almost every major category. Their offense features both the highs of hot starts from Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz and Ryan Howard, and the lows of Domonic Brown and Ben Revere.
Utley has been spectacular thus far, batting .355 with a .978 OPS through 23 games played.
The rotation has experienced the ups of strong showings from A.J. Burnett and Cliff Lee, as well as the downs of early struggles from Cole Hamels. The bullpen is still as inconsistent as can be as well.
So it’s fitting that Philadelphia is exactly .500 through 26 games, but in last place in the National League East, which is the only division in baseball to feature a full complement of teams at even or better.
Facing the Nationals for the first time in 2014, the Phillies send out their latest Big 3, even if one isn’t earning the right to be a part of that group so far.
Lee, Burnett and Hamels will all take the mound against Washington with Lee and Burnett boasting 3.29 and 2.15 ERAs, and Hamels scuffling to a 6.75 mark. Lee goes up against Stephen Strasburg in Game 1 for a true must-watch matchup while Hamels takes on Gio Gonzalez in a marquee Sunday matinee.
The Phils have won three of five and six of 10 while the Nats have won four of five, so there’s plenty of reason to watch this rivalry renewed with both teams playing some of their best ball at this point.