Manager: Ryne Sandberg, third year
Last 10 games: 3-6
Who to watch: 3B Cody Asche (.500/.571/.667, 1 HR, 2 RBIs); 2B Chase Utley (.167/.229/.367, 2 HR, 7 RBIs); LHP Cole Hamels (0-1, 3.75 ERA, 1.00 WHIP); RHP Aaron Harang (1-1, 0.73 ERA, 0.73 WHIP)
Season series vs. Nats: 2-1, 10 runs scored, 7 runs allowed
April 16: LHP Cole Hamels vs. RHP Doug Fister, 7 p.m., MASN
April 17: RHP Sean O'Sullivan vs. RHP Max Scherzer, 7 p.m., MASN2
April 18: RHP Aaron Harang vs. RHP Jordan Zimmermann, 1 p.m., MASN
April 19: RHP David Buchanan vs. RHP Stephen Strasburg, 1:30 p.m., MASN2
The Phillies continue to reacquaint themselves with the Nationals, facing the division favorites for the second time in three series, this time for a four-game set at Nats Park. Ten of Philadelphia's first 16 contests this season are against Washington.
Neither team comes into this weekend's series playing particularly well. The Phillies have lost four straight, a skid that started with a 4-3 10-inning defeat against the Nats. Aside from back-to-back wins over Washington, Philadelphia has won just once in its seven other games. The Nats are fresh off dropping two of three in Boston, but they did earn a 10-5 win over the Red Sox on Wednesday.
The Phillies have played the Nats well over the last two seasons, going 12-10 against them, including last weekend's series win.
The Phillies' current slide, however, has featured two one-run losses, a 2-0 blanking and an ugly 6-1 shellacking against the Mets Wednesday.
So far this season, Philadelphia has found offense hard to come by, scoring just 22 runs through nine games. The Phillies' six homers, .215 team average and .612 team OPS also rank near the bottom of the majors.
The 25-year-old Asche has been scalding since going 0-for-3 in the opener. He has hits in all six games he received a plate appearance since, going 12-for-21 (.571) to lift his season average to .500. Asche has also found a more productive stroke with a double and a homer over the last two games. Galvis, 25, is batting .345/.406/.379 in eight games.
The only Phillies with more than two RBIs this season are second baseman Chase Utley (seven) and right fielder Jeff Francoeur (four). Utley has struggled offensively despite that, batting .167/.229/.367 in a team-high 30 at-bats. He and Francoeur, who's batting .217/.250/.522, are tied for the team lead with two homers.
Philadelphia's pitching staff has fared better than its lineup with a 3.71 team ERA through nine games, ranking squarely in the middle of the major league pack. The rotation has a 4.32 ERA while the bullpen has been solid with a 2.70 ERA. Relievers Luis Garcia, Ken Giles, Cesar Jimenez and Jonathan Papelbon have combined to allow no earned runs in 10 2/3 innings.
Tonight's game features perhaps the best pitching matchup of the series with left-hander Cole Hamels taking on right-hander Doug Fister, the same pair of starters that combined to allow one run in 13 1/3 innings against each other Saturday. Hamels had a rough first start, but rebounded against the Nats, holding them to one run on two hits and a walk while striking out five in seven innings. The Phillies ace has struggled with the longball so far this season, allowing five homers in 12 innings. Hamels is 0-1 with a 3.75 ERA through two starts
On Friday, right-hander Sean O'Sullivan again starts opposite right-hander Max Scherzer (0-1, 0.66 ERA). Neither factored into the decision when both tossed quality starts last Sunday. O'Sullivan allowed two runs in six innings in his first start of the season, but the Phillies fell 4-3 in 10 frames.
The third game of the series features another potential pitchers' duel with 36-year-old righty Aaron Harang facing right-hander Jordan Zimmermann. Harang has been exceptional so far this season, allowing just one run and nine baserunners in 12 1/3 innings for a 0.73 ERA through two starts. He had plenty of success against the Nats while pitching for the Braves in 2014, going 2-1 with a 1.33 ERA in four starts.
The series finale on Sunday likely pits right-hander David Buchanan against right-hander Stephen Strasburg. Buchanan's rotation spot could be in jeopardy, however, as he's 0-2 with an 11.42 ERA through two starts. Both of the 25-year-old's outings this season were duds, as he surrendered at least five runs in each start with 11 earned runs in 8 2/3 innings combined. Buchanan pitched to a 3.75 ERA in 20 starts as a rookie last season, but struggled the only time he saw the Nats, allowing seven runs in six frames.
The Nationals come in to the weekend with the same 3-6 record as the Phillies, having lost each of their first three series of 2015.
With Philadelphia skidding and the Nats coming off their most lopsided win of the season, Washington could be primed to start heading the direction most expect - toward first place. But another iffy series against the Phillies could be detrimental with the Cardinals, Marlins, Braves and Mets looming.