Phillies-Nationals: 5 things you need to know

Phillies-Nationals: 5 things you need to know

September 14, 2013, 4:30 pm
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1. When and where

After dropping the series opener, 6-1, the Phillies (68-79) play the middle game of a three-game road set with the Nationals (78-69) on Saturday night at 7:05 p.m. on CSN.

2. Prime pitching matchup

Cole Hamels takes on Gio Gonzalez in a battle of two tough lefties.

Hamels, 7-13 with a 3.45 ERA, has been absolutely lights-out for 13 straight starts, posting a 2.18 ERA with seven times as many strikeouts as walks since the Fourth of July.

His opponents have hit .223 with a .259 on-base percentage. Seventy percent of Hamels’ pitches have been strikes. His WHIP over that span is 0.94. It’s been an extreme regression to Hamels’ true talent level after a rough start to 2013.

Hamels has faced the Nats three times this year and the Phillies won twice. He has a 2.11 ERA in those 21 1/3 innings, with 18 strikeouts and just two walks.

3. Handle with care

Several Nationals haven’t had much trouble squaring up Hamels’ pitches. Scott Hairston has been better against Hamels than any other hitter, batting .378 with five homers and five doubles in 37 at-bats.

Lefty Adam LaRoche is a .294 lifetime hitter off Hamels with four bombs. And Ryan Zimmerman, in 70 at-bats, has hit .271 with three homers, three doubles and 16 strikeouts.

Zimmerman has followed Jayson Werth’s lead and is on pace to win NL Player of the Month for September. He has nine homers in his last 11 games, and over his last 23 contests has hit .337/.393/.673 with 10 homers, 16 RBIs and 26 runs.

4. Getting to Gio

Gonzalez (10-6, 3.31) has dominated the Phillies since coming to the National League, going 5-1 with a 2.22 ERA in seven starts. The Phils have never had more than six hits in a game against him, and he’s never allowed more than three earned runs.

Current Phillies have hit .231 off him, but rookies Darin Ruf and Cody Asche have knocked him around some, combining to go 5 for 10 with two extra-base hits and six RBIs.

5. Wild-card watch

These games have enormous importance for a Washington team jockeying for position in the NL wild-card race. The Reds won again on Saturday, pushing the Nats to five games back of the final playoff spot with 15 left to play.

The Nats, who on Friday assured themselves of a season series win over the Phils by improving to 10-7, have a tough remaining schedule, with three games remaining against the Braves and a six-game, season-ending road trip to St. Louis and Arizona.

The Phillies would love to put a few nails in Washington’s coffin by taking a game or two this weekend.