Phillies (23-24) at Nationals (24-23)
7:05 p.m. – CSN
Needing a win to reach .500 for the first time since they were 6-6, the Phillies open their first series of the season with the Washington Nationals.
The Nats have been disappointing through 47 games, failing to hit and receiving underwhelming production from the bullpen. Injuries have played a role, but they’re no excuse for Washington’s .225 team batting average.
The Nats rank 29th in baseball in batting average, on-base percentage and OPS. Only the Marlins are worse.
You know how inconsistent the Phillies’ offense has been, so consider that the Nats’ bats have produced a batting average 24 points worse and an OBP 17 points lower. The Nats have also struck out more times than any NL team except the Braves.
Starters Jayson Werth and Wilson Ramos are on the DL. Their replacements haven’t hit. Tyler Moore and Roger Bernadina make up a left field platoon, and they’re hitting a combined .118. It’s rather sad that backup catcher Kurt Suzuki has the fifth-highest OPS on the team, at .694.
Adam LaRoche hasn’t come close to replicating his 2012 success. He’s hitting .219 with 50 strikeouts in 151 at-bats. At this point last season he was hitting .295 with an OPS 244 points higher.
Bryce Harper has been the offensive centerpiece all season, and Ryan Zimmerman is finally coming along, hitting .313 in May. Ian Desmond is a dangerous free-swinger and Denard Span works counts better than most leadoff men. But if two of those guys aren’t having a good game, this offense can be kept off the board.
Kendrick vs. Zimmermann
Kyle Kendrick (4-2, 2.82) faces the Nats for the first time since Oct. 1, 2012, when he pitched seven shutout innings against them in a 2-0 Phillies win.
Kendrick allowed four runs his last time out to snap a streak of seven straight starts of two runs or fewer. He was wild against a potent Reds offense, but still managed to keep the Phillies in the game by giving up only the four runs through six innings. Of course, the Phillies couldn’t touch Bronson Arroyo and the bullpen ultimately extended Cincy’s lead to 10-0.
A solid start from Kendrick would go a long way in showing that his seven-game streak of two runs or fewer wasn’t a mirage. His success goes back much further than just those seven starts, but it still would be meaningful to see him rebound from a poor performance and get right back to that level.
Desmond, Zimmerman and Harper have all crushed Kendrick – they’re a combined 26 for 68 (.382) with 12 doubles, a triple and four homers. The crazy thing is that Zimmerman (.303 BA, 7 2B, 1 HR) still has gaudy numbers even after going 0 for 11 against KK last season.
The Phillies will see Jordan Zimmermann, who is 7-2 with a 1.62 ERA. How they hit against the early-season Cy Young candidate will likely set the tone for the weekend (see story).
Little relief vs. lefties
The Nationals let Sean Burnett walk and didn’t replace him with a left-handed reliever. As a result, they’ve been vulnerable late in games against lefty hitters.
Zach Duke, the lone lefty in the ‘pen, has allowed lefties a .440 clip.
Lefties have hit .386 off of Drew Storen, Ryan Mattheus and Craig Stammen. The one guy capable of getting lefties out so far has been right-hander Tyler Clippard. They’re 1 for 31 against the bespectacled changeup artist.
Delmon Young homered in his first at-bat as a Phillie and went 2 for 3 in his debut. Then he hit .163 over his next 16 games. But over the last two, Young is 4 for 8 with a pair of homers, a double and an infield single that started a rally.
Ben Revere is hitting .370 in May.
Jimmy Rollins has raised his batting average 30 points, from .234 to .264 over his last 13 games.
And Domonic Brown has nine extra-base hits this month, including four in his last five games. He has a .519 slugging percentage in May after slugging .372 in April.
Phillies (23-24) at Nationals (24-23)