Opposite dugout: Phillies hope second-half momentum carries into 2018

Manager: Pete Mackanin (3rd season)
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Record: 62-94

Last 10 games: 5-5

Who to watch: 1B Rhys Hoskins (.278 with 18 HR, 46 RBIs); 1B Tommy Joseph (.238 with 22 HR, 68 RBIs); 3B Maikel Franco (.231 with 21 HR, 70 RBIs); RHP Aaron Nola (12-10, 3.56 ERA); RHP Héctor Neris (3.18 ERA, 23 saves)

Season series vs. Nationals: 6-10

Pitching probables:

Sep. 25: RHP A.J. Cole vs. RHP Aaron Nola; 7:05 p.m., MASN
Sep. 26: LHP Gio Gonzalez vs. RHP Jake Thompson; 7:05 p.m., MASN
Sep. 27: RHP Tanner Roark vs. RHP Mark Leiter; 7:05 p.m., MASN

Inside the Phillies:

For the Phillies, 2017 wasn’t about competing for a World Series. In reality, it was more about, well, competing. And though those in the clubhouse and the front office would probably say this season has been a disappointment (missing the playoffs for the sixth straight year will do that), there have been signs of progress in the City of Brotherly Love. After posting a 29-58 record in the first half of the season, the Phillies head into their final series against the Nationals with a 33-36 mark in the second half. So while the Nationals get ready for the postseason, the Phillies will look to keep that second-half momentum train running.

If there’s a single reason to pinpoint the Phillies’ second-half surge, look no further than rookie Rhys Hoskins. Hoskins has taken the baseball world by storm, clubbing 18 home runs in his first 43 games. He hasn’t homered since Sept. 14, though, the longest drought in his brief career. In the meantime, the Phillies have received plenty of power from first baseman Tommy Joseph, who leads the team with 22 home runs, and third baseman Maikel Franco, right behind Joseph with 20 longballs. In the hits department, shortstop Freddy Galvis leads the way with 151 of them, while second baseman César Hernandez is second with 142, along with a team-leading .296 average.

His 12-10 record may not suggest it, but Aaron Nola, who starts Monday’s opener, has had a tremendous season for the Phillies. He’s issued two earned runs or fewer in 17 of his 26 starts, helping him sport a 3.56 ERA. Nola has won his last two decisions and is hard to beat at home, where he’s 9-4 with a 2.98 ERA. Jake Thompson is no stranger to the Nationals, having made three appearances against them this season. But he’ll hope for better fortune Tuesday, when he’ll look to earn his third win of the year. During his only other start against the Nats back on Sept. 8, Thompson gave up five earned runs in an 11-10 loss. It’ll be right-hander Mark Leiter starting in Wednesday’s series finale. Leiter began his rookie campaign in the Phillies bullpen, where he made 16 appearances over the first three months of the season. He made his first career start on June 23 against Arizona, and since then has amassed a 3-5 record with a 4.79 ERA. He faced the Nationals back on Sept. 9 and, despite giving up four earned runs, picked up the win and tallied eight strikeouts.

After starting the season with a closer-by-committee approach, the Phillies found their man in reliever Héctor Neris. Neris has flourished in the role, converting 23 of his 26 save opportunities while keeping his ERA below 3.20. Joining him in the bullpen are relievers Luis García (2-5, 2.77 ERA) and Edubray Ramos (2-7, 4.61 ERA).

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