Manager: Gabe Kapler (1st season)
Last 10 games: 4-6
Who to watch: CF OdÃºbel Herrera (.337 with .392 OBP), 3B Maikel Franco (.261 with 23 RBIs), OF Aaron Altherr (.207/.305/.390), RHP Jake Arrieta (3-1, 3.49 ERA), RHP Hector Neris (5 saves, 3.00 ERA)
Season series vs. Nationals: First meeting (8-11 in 2017)
May 4: RHP Nick Pivetta (1-1) vs. LHP Gio Gonzalez (3-2), 7:05 p.m., MASN
May 5: RHP Vince Velasquez (1-4) vs. RHP Tanner Roark (2-2), 4:05 p.m., MASN
May 6: RHP Jake Arrieta (3-1) vs. Max Scherzer (3-1), 1:35 p.m., MASN
Inside the Phillies:
After a tough 1-4 start to the season, Gabe Kapler and his Phillies rebounded in the subsequent weeks to win 16 of their last 25 games and are near the top of the National League East with a 17-13 record. However, the struggle continues as they lost three in a row this week, five of their last nine and suffered their first back-to-back losses in at least three weeks. They wrapped up a decent April, going 15-10 with a .600 winning percentage and, despite a rough week in Miami, hope to continue their success in May. They're making their way up to the nation's capital for the first time this season. Last season, the Fightin' Phils went 8-11 against the Nationals.
Center fielder OdÃºbel Herrera has had the hottest start for the Phillies. One of the true everyday players in the lineup, he's posting a .333/.392/.481 slash line and has reached base safely in a career-best 32 games, the longest active on-base streak in the majors. The 26-year old is waving goodbye to an incredible .360 April average, and after notching a hit in each of his last two games he may carry his recent success into this month. Third baseman Maikel Franco is also starting to heat up. He's batting .300 with seven RBIs over his last eight games and rode a six-game hitting streak (going .333 with two homers and five RBIs) until going hitless on Tuesday against the Marlins. But he's once again leading the Phils in RBIs with 22 (he led the team last year with 76 RBIs) and has only four strikeouts in his last 33 plate appearances. Outfielder Aaron Altherr continues to hit cleanup despite slashing .207/.305/.390. In his last 13 games, the outfielder is batting .309 with four doubles, a triple, a home run and nine RBIs after an abysmal .077 average through his first 14 games of the season.
Former Nationals farmhand Nick Pivetta, who starts Friday's opener, is slowly but surely progressing. In his last start against the Braves, Pivetta was hit hard after allowing four earned runs on six hits, with three walks and six strikeouts. But at 1-1 with a 3.27 ERA and only four walks in 28 innings, he's showing significantly improved control from his 2017 season. Vince Velasquez is on the mound Saturday afternoon; he has been struggling since his last win on April 7 against the Marlins. In his last start, the righty gave up a season-high six earned runs on seven hits in only four innings. He's currently 1-4 with a 5.70 ERA and has given up five homers in his last 14 2/3 innings. A rumored almost-National during spring training, Jake Arrieta is finishing the series on Sunday facing off against Nats workhorse Max Scherzer. Arrieta is 3-1 with 3.49 ERA and took his first loss of the season on April 30 against the Marlins after getting rocked in 3 2/3 innings, cutting his streak of 18 consecutive starts allowing three or fewer earned runs. Prior to that, the right-hander went 3-1 with a 1.82 ERA, a .179 batting average against and struck out 18 batters in four starts. In his last meeting with the Nationals, Arrieta was the losing pitcher after allowing just one unearned run in four innings in Game 4 of the 2017 National League Division Series.
Hard-throwing righty Hector Neris has converted five of six save opportunities and has a 3.00 ERA.