Phillies-Nationals: 5 things you need to know

Phillies-Nationals: 5 things you need to know
August 27, 2014, 11:30 am
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Phillies vs. Nationals
7:05 p.m. on CSN

The Phillies earned an early series win Tuesday night over the Nationals, racing back to claim a 4-3 win after Cole Hamels let a 3-0 lead evaporate.

The Phils have won three consecutive series for the first time since right before the 2013 All-Star break. They played 61 series in between.

Now, they go for a three-game sweep over a Washington team that had won 12 of 13 and 24 of 36 before coming to Philadelphia.

Here are five things you need to know heading into the series finale:

#FreeDarinRuf
Really, what more does the guy need to do to warrant consistent playing time?

Ruf homered Tuesday off Nationals lefty Gio Gonzalez and is hitting .250 with an .846 OPS in limited playing time this season. He has as many homers in his last 24 plate appearances as Domonic Brown has in his last 104.

The Phillies face a tough right-hander Wednesday night in Doug Fister. So what? At some point the Phillies are going to need to see what Ruf is capable of against right-handed pitching.

If Ryne Sandberg feels he needs to start Ryan Howard and Brown, then perhaps Marlon Byrd should have the night off. He looked lost Tuesday night, going 0 for 4 with three of the team's five strikeouts.

Bullpen notes
Jonathan Papelbon notched his 100th save as a Phillie in the 4-3 win Tuesday. The much-maligned closer has a 2.35 ERA in 188 innings as a Phillie, which ranks sixth-best in baseball since 2012 among relievers with as many innings.

For reference, Papelbon had a 2.33 ERA in Boston. He hasn't been nearly as ineffective as some think, and even if the strikeout rate is down, he is still inducing plenty of weak contact.

As for Ken Giles, the Phillies' winning pitcher Tuesday night, he struck out the side, all swinging. He has faced 92 different major-leaguers this season and struck out 41 of them, which is astonishing.

Giles has a 1.38 ERA with 47 strikeouts in 32 2/3 innings in his 31 appearances.

Kendrick's turn
Kyle Kendrick has allowed fewer than four runs in a game just twice in his last nine starts. He hasn't had consecutive quality starts since June 12 and June 17.

Safe to say he needs a strong outing just to regain some confidence.

KK is 6-11 with a 4.93 ERA in 26 starts. He's stumbling toward his first encounter with free agency and has cost himself years and millions of dollars with his poor 2014 campaign.

Kendrick remains on pace to pitch right around 200 innings, but they haven't been quality innings. He can change that perception with a solid final month.

In two starts this season against the Nats, Kendrick is 0-2 with a 6.39 ERA. He's been torn apart by two Nationals in particular: Ian Desmond and Bryce Harper. Desmond is 15 for 39 (.385) with two doubles, a triple, two homers and eight RBIs. Harper is 9 for 25 (.360) with five extra-base hits and three walks.

Scouting Fister
Doug Fister is one tough customer. The first-year National is 12-4 with a 2.38 ERA in 19 starts and has walked just 15 batters in 124 2/3 innings.

He's allowed the Phillies just four runs in 14 innings in two meetings this season, winning one and losing the other.

The 6-foot-8 right-hander has been as advertised for the Nats, who basically stole him from the Tigers last winter. He's held his opponents to a .276 on-base percentage, and though he doesn't strike many batters out, he makes up for it by generating weak contact. Fister's line drive rate this season is just 17.2 percent, fourth-best among starting pitchers behind Tom Koehler, Clayton Kershaw and Jorge de la Rosa.

Fister is like a more effective version of Chris Young. He is a tall righty who doesn't exceed 90 mph. Fister throws his sinker about 55 percent of the time, and also mixes in curveballs, cutters and splitters.

The only Phillie with extensive experience against him is Ben Revere, who is 8 for 22 (.364).

Position player shuffle
The constant shuffling of outfielders has left Grady Sizemore without a regular role, but he continues to produce at the plate. As a Phillie, Sizemore has hit .301 with a .778 OPS. He has nine doubles, two triples and a homer in 113 at-bats with the team.

Then there's Maikel Franco, who is still at Triple A Lehigh Valley and is not guaranteed a September call-up despite his hot streak. One reason for that might be the lack of a true position for him. The Phillies may not want to put added pressure on Cody Asche. They may not want to have Ryan Howard sit three days a week.

It doesn't make much sense. Franco's confidence has to be sky high at the moment. He's hit .436 over his last 10 games with five home runs, three doubles, a triple and 13 RBIs. He's slugged .640 over his last 28 games.

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