Phillies (68-78) at Nationals (77-69)
7:05 p.m., CSN
1. When and where
After taking two of three from the Padres and completing a 6-3 homestand, the Phillies hit the road for a three-game series with the Washington Nationals. The Phils have won five of six, outscoring their opponents 27-23 in a slew of tight contests.
Four of the six wins during the homestand were by one run. The Phils are 12-2 in their last 14 one-run games, after going 13-21 in their first 34.
2. NL East only
From this point forward, every Phillies opponent is from the NL East. After this three-game weekend set in Washington, they return home for six games with the Marlins and Mets, then end the season with a seven-game road trip to Miami and Atlanta.
The Phils are a respectable 32-28 against the NL East but finished their non-division schedule 36-50.
3. Huge start for Kendrick
Kyle Kendrick (10-12, 4.51) hasn’t had consecutive decent starts since June 19 and June 25. Since then, he has a 6.08 ERA, a .331 opponents’ batting average and just five quality starts in 13 tries.
His last time out, he held the Braves to three runs on four hits over six innings and struck out a season-high eight batters.
Kendrick wasn’t effective the last time he faced the Nationals. He allowed six runs (four earned) on 11 hits and lasted just 4 1/3 innings. He has a 4.13 ERA in four starts vs. Washington this season.
Kendrick enters a crucial offseason and will need to pitch well to entice the Phillies to keep him in the fold moving forward. He is no longer an inexpensive back-end starter -- he is entering his final arbitration year and will begin getting pricey.
Kendrick will have to be extra careful with arch-nemesis Ryan Zimmerman, who has eight home runs in his last 10 games. Zimmerman has helped key Washington’s late-season surge by hitting .328 with a 1.140 OPS over his last 14 games, with 14 runs and 11 RBIs.
4. Solving Strasburg
The Phillies haven’t come close in three tries. Strasburg is 2-0 vs. the Phillies this season with a 0.39 ERA. He’s allowed one run in 23 innings and on Aug. 11 pitched his first career complete game, shutting the Phillies out in a 6-0 win.
The Phils have hit .149 off Strasburg this year with three walks and 29 strikeouts. All 11 of their hits were singles.
UPDATE: Strasburg was a late scratch because of forearm tightness.
5. Playing spoiler
The Phillies have nothing to play for, but the Nationals do. Washington has won six straight to pull to within 5½ games of the second NL wild-card spot. Still, catching the Reds will be difficult. Even if the Nats go 13-3 over their final 16 games, Cincinnati would need to finish 6-9 or worse.
After so many Septembers in which the Nationals were out of the race and the Phillies were fighting for playoff positioning, the Phils have a chance to stomp on Washington’s playoff hopes. Taking two of three would effectively remove any hopes of a second straight playoff berth for Davey Johnson’s club.