Phillies-Nationals: What you need to know

Phillies-Nationals: What you need to know
May 25, 2013, 3:45 pm
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Phillies (23-25) vs. Nationals (25-23)
7:15 p.m. -- FOX

A series of two-out hits in the fifth inning doomed the Phillies on Friday night, as they fell to exactly two games under .500 for the 14th time this season. They were able to hit Jordan Zimmermann early but Kyle Kendrick fell apart in the middle innings to allow Washington back into the game (see story).

Tonight the Phils look to avoid dropping a crucial series. The Nationals gained some momentum Friday by piecing together their biggest inning in a month, and the Phils can’t allow the team directly ahead of them in the standings to get on a roll.

Up to Pettibone
Rookie right-hander Jonathan Pettibone has been a great surprise, going 3-0 with a 3.00 ERA. He’s ahead of the pace Vance Worley or J.A. Happ were on through their first six starts with the Phils.

Pettibone has a 2.45 ERA over his last four starts. He’s allowed one run twice, two runs twice and three runs twice.

The 22-year-old’s most impressive trait has been his work with runners in scoring position. Batters are hitting .188 in those situations, and .175 with men on base, period.

Pettibone has been especially effective on the left side of the plate -- in to righties and away to lefties. Lefties are 3 for 30 on pitches away that aren’t in the upper third of the plate, according to ESPN Hot Zones. That will be key against Denard Span, Bryce Harper and Adam LaRoche.

A different Dan Haren
This isn’t the same Dan Haren we once knew. In his prime from 2005-11, Haren had a 3.49 ERA and struck out 4.3 times as many batters as he walked. Then the back problems began, and he hasn’t been the same. The Angels declined his option this past offseason, making him a free agent. Washington snatched him up on a pricey one-year deal.

Haren has a 5.54 ERA through nine starts and has allowed a whopping 64 hits in 50 1/3 innings. Right-handed batters are hitting .339 off him. Haren allowed seven runs in five innings to the offensively-challenged Padres his last time out.

His repertoire is mostly the same. Haren throws a four-seam fastball, a two-seamer, a cutter and a splitter. The splitter is his out pitch. He’s gotten away from his curveball over the years.

Since 2007 Haren’s splitter has a .211 opponents’ batting average, according to BrooksBaseball.Net. The pitch dives late against lefties and explains why he’s been so much better against opposite-handed hitters this season.

Haren has never beaten the Phillies -- he’s 0-3 with a 6.14 ERA in four career starts. Current Phils are hitting .291 off him.

The Youngs -- Michael and Delmon -- saw plenty of Haren in the American League. In 82 combined at-bats, they’ve hit .329 five doubles and 13 RBIs.

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