Opposite dugout: Phillies still have part to play in playoff push

PhilliesLogo.jpgManager: Pete Mackanin (2nd season)

Record: 62-77

Last 10 games: 3-7

Who to watch: CF Odubel Herrera (.278 with 13 HR, 42 RBIs, 20 SB), 3B Maikel Franco (22 HR, 73 RBIs), SS Freddy Galvis (16 HR, 58 RBIs), RHP Jerad Eickhoff (10-13, 3.86 ERA), RHP Jeanmar Gomez (3.39 ERA with 35 saves)

Season series vs. Nationals: 4-11

Pitching probables:

Sept. 8: RHP Alec Asher vs. RHP A.J. Cole, 7:05 p.m., MASN
Sept. 9: RHP Jake Thompson vs. RHP Tanner Roark, 7:05 p.m., MASN
Sept. 10: RHP Jerad Eickhoff vs. RHP Max Scherzer, 7:05 p.m., MASN
Sept. 11: LHP Adam Morgan vs. LHP Gio Gonzalez, 1:35 p.m., MASN2

Inside the Phillies:

It's another September in which the Phillies are already looking forward to the end of the season so they can focus on the offseason into next year. This will be the fifth straight season in which the Phillies miss the playoffs and they are on pace for a fourth straight sub-.500 finish. Yet despite being 20 games out of first place in the National League East and 11 1/2 games back from the second wild card spot, the Phils still have a role to play in the playoff push.

The Phillies just won two out of three against the Marlins, who fall further away from a wild card spot. The Phils are coming to D.C. to face a Nationals team that mathematically still has a shot to catch the Cubs for the best record in the NL while also holding off the Dodgers for the No. 2 seed and home-field advantage in the Division Series. Including this final series against the Nats, 17 of the Phils' final 22 games are against contenders in the NL, including seven against the Mets, who are currently tied with the Cardinals for the final wild card. So the Phillies can either be a team these contenders will feast on en route to October or one that will spoil their postseason appetites.

Center fielder Odubel Herrera is still struggling through his second half, now just batting .278 with 13 home runs and 42 RBIs on the season. The infield is still held down by third baseman Maikel Franco, who has crushed a team-high 22 homers and 73 RBIs while only hitting .246, and shortstop Freddy Galvis, who has added 16 longballs and 58 RBIs. First baseman Tommy Joseph has moved veteran Ryan Howard to the bench with his 17 home runs, 36 RBIs and .483 slugging percentage.

Right-hander Alec Asher's start in tonight's opener will be his first big league action since returning from an 80-game suspension for performance enhancing drugs. In seven starts last year, Asher went 0-6 with a 9.31 ERA. He gave up four runs and seven hits over five innings in his only appearance against the Nationals last September. Rookie Jake Thompson will make his seventh career start Friday night with an 1-5 record and 6.48 ERA. Last week against the Nationals, he turned in the best outing of his young career, giving up just two runs and seven hits over seven innings. Despite taking the loss, Thompson's ERA dropped from 9.78 to 7.86 thanks to that outing.

Right-hander Jerad Eickhoff is one of two Phillies 10-plus winners with a 10-13 record and 3.86 ERA. His only outing against the Nationals this season came last week in Philadelphia, when he pitched six innings and gave up five hits and three runs. He is 1-1 with a 3.46 ERA in two starts against the Nats, with the one win coming in D.C. last year. Adam Morgan, who is my colleague Mark Zuckerman's favorite opposing pitcher to come to Nats Park, brings his 2-9 record and 5.90 ERA to the season finale between these two clubs on Sunday. He gave up two runs and three hits in 6 2/3 innings in a loss to the Nats last Wednesday. Morgan is 0-2 with a 5.12 ERA in three starts against the Nationals in his career and gave up three runs and five hits in 6 2/3 innings in his lone start at Nats Park.

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