Phillies (1-3) vs. Nationals (3-1)
7:05 p.m. on NBC10; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App
The Phillies lost their home opener to the Nationals but impressed their manager in doing it, coming back from a 7-0 deficit and getting the go-ahead run to the plate in the ninth inning of a 7-6 loss.
The series continues Saturday night in Aaron Nola's much-anticipated season debut:
1. All eyes on Nola
In reality, all eyes will be on Nola 32 times this season or however many times he takes the mound. He's coming off an elbow injury that cost him the second half of his season, and before that injury, he had the worst stretch of his baseball life.
On June 5 last season, Nola fired six shutout innings with nine strikeouts against the Brewers to lower his ERA to 2.65 through 12 starts. What happened from there was ugly. Nola gave up 39 runs (36 earned) over 33 innings in his next eight starts as his ERA soared to 4.78. His opponents hit .367 with 14 walks.
Where was the guy with the pinpoint command?
Nola had a rough spring, but Pete Mackanin liked the velocity he saw from his 23-year-old right-hander.
It's not velocity that made Nola a first-round pick in 2014, though. It was elite command, an ability to spot his fastball wherever he wanted, and a slurvy curveball that can completely freeze hitters.
The Nationals are not an easy first test. Bryce Harper is 7 for 11 off Nola with two homers. Daniel Murphy has a double, triple and a homer in 13 at-bats. Jayson Werth has taken him deep twice.
Nola has faced Washington six times and gone 0-3 with a 5.40 ERA. He doesn't need to go out there tonight and fire seven shutout innings, but the Phillies will want to see him enter and exit the game healthy, keep the ball low and work quickly. This early in the season, it's more about positive signs from Nola than just results.
2. Wake-up calls
Tommy Joseph needs one. So does Maikel Franco, Michael Saunders and Cameron Rupp.
Joseph is 0 for 13 with six strikeouts. Franco is 2 for 16 and has left a whole lot of men on base. Saunders is 1 for 10 and has made a few crucial outs. Rupp is 2 for 11 with five K's.
The Phillies obviously are not going to win many games with half of the lineup doing nothing. It is reminiscent of last season when the Phillies would have so many guys going cold at the same time. That's how you score 39 fewer runs than any other team.
3. Herrera's hitting, though
One guy that you can't complain about so far is Odubel Herrera. Four games into the season, he's gone 6 for 14 with two doubles and four walks.
Herrera had two more hits Friday off Max Scherzer, the reigning Cy Young winner who Herrera continues to have success against (see story).
Herrera and Howie Kendrick have been the Phillies' most consistent hitters less than a week into the season. Freddy Galvis and Aaron Altherr have also shown some pop.
4. Guthrie gets the start
There was some thought the Phillies would face talented young right-hander Joe Ross this weekend, but instead, they'll see veteran Jeremy Guthrie on Saturday and Stephen Strasburg on Sunday.
The Nationals selected Guthrie's contract after Friday's game.
It's a pretty big surprise to see the 38-year-old starting during a team's first cycle through the rotation. He had a 5.95 ERA for the Royals in 2015 and didn't pitch in the majors last season, posting a 7.17 ERA at Triple A.
He's, at times in his career, been a serviceable fourth starter who limits walks.
When Guthrie last pitched in the majors, he used a five-pitch mix: four-seam fastball around 92-93 mph, a sinker, changeup, curveball and cutter.
Put it this way: Having faced Scherzer on Friday and with Strasburg on tap Sunday, this is the game the Phillies' bats need to wake up. There won't be much of an excuse if they're silent against Guthrie and a Nationals bullpen they exposed Friday.
5. This and that
* Joaquin Benoit and Hector Neris are going to get so many outs this season. Let's just hope they're meaningful outs. Both impressed Friday with the Phillies trailing by multiple runs. The back-end of this bullpen is the team's strength; hopefully, they get to use it.
* Credit to Jeanmar Gomez for easily working his way through Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and Ryan Zimmerman in an 11-pitch, 1-2-3 ninth inning Friday.
* Harper loves himself some Citizens Bank Park. In 36 career games here, he's hit .306 with 12 homers, 26 RBIs and an OPS well over 1.000.
* As if that's not enough, Harper is protected by Daniel Murphy, a .313 lifetime hitter against the Phillies in 510 plate appearances.
(How awesome is it that the Mets just gave away Murphy and Justin Turner, who have become two of the most consistent doubles hitters in the NL?)