How many games can Nats, Phillies actually play this weekend?

The final week of the season, with seven games against NL East contenders crammed into six days, always loomed as a tough closing stretch for the Nationals. But now that stretch looks even tougher. And it might have to be extended to a seventh day, depending on a variety of factors.

When Major League Baseball put outs its initial 2022 schedule, this was supposed to be the final weekend. The Nationals would host the Phillies for three games, wrapping everything up Sunday.

But then came the interminable offseason lockout that stretched into spring training and ultimately delayed Opening Day by a week. And rather than cancel that week’s worth of games lost, MLB chose to insert them into the original schedule.

The Nats, who were supposed to host the Phillies for a two-game series the first week of April, wound up having a pair of Saturday doubleheaders added (one in June, one this weekend) to make up those games. They also had their originally planned opening series at the Mets tacked on to the end of the schedule, so they’ll now play Monday-Wednesday at Citi Field.

Now throw the remnants of Hurricane Ian into the mix, and you get this current mess. Worried about the weekend forecast of rain, the Nationals took Saturday night’s game and bumped it up to this afternoon at 1:05 p.m., creating a day-night doubleheader. In theory, the Nats and Phillies will play three games in the span of 27 hours, then wait for the worst of the rain to clear out before finishing the series Sunday at 1:35 p.m.

What are the odds of that actually happening as planned? It seems pretty unlikely.

This afternoon’s game, with Erick Fedde facing the Phillies’ Bailey Falter, is the most likely game of the entire weekend to be played without disruption. Hopefully, tonight’s game, with a still-to-be-named Nats starter facing Noah Syndergaard, can be played to completion. After that, it’s anyone’s guess.

No matter what, the Nationals will head to New York for that three-game series. The question is: Will Wednesday’s game in Flushing actually be the final game of the season?

If they can’t get all four games in this weekend, and if the Phillies (now neck-and-neck with the Brewers for the final wild card berth in the NL) have neither clinched nor been eliminated from the race come Wednesday evening, they will need to come back to D.C. for a makeup game Thursday.

Even worse, if only two games can be played this weekend, there’s a chance a Thursday doubleheader would have to be scheduled at Nationals Park. (Though the second game would only be played if the race remained undecided.)

It’s the last thing the Nationals want to have to worry about at the end of a brutal season. And who knows, maybe it won’t come to that.

But the mere fact it’s a plausible scenario is enough to send shivers down plenty of folks’ spines this morning as they head to the ballpark for a long weekend that could include a whole lot (or not nearly enough) baseball.

Game 156 lineups: Nats vs. Phillies
Forecast bumps Saturday doubleheader up to Friday

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