Phillies-Nationals 5 things: Can Jeremy Hellickson dominate Nats again?

Phillies-Nationals 5 things: Can Jeremy Hellickson dominate Nats again?

Phillies (3-7) vs. Nationals (6-4)
1:05 p.m. on CSN and streaming live on and the NBC Sports app

Despite five strong innings from Aaron Nola, the Phillies couldn't nail down a win against the Nationals on Friday evening, losing, 3-2, in extra innings. The Phils send Jeremy Hellickson to the hill Saturday afternoon with hopes to even the series at one apiece while the Nationals toss out Tanner Roark.

Here are five things to know for Game 2 of this series.

1. Can Hellickson tame the Nats again?
In his last time out, Hellickson had the Nationals' number. 

The Phillies' opening day starter took the hill last Sunday and held the Nationals to just one hit through five innings. He was perfect the first time through the order and avoided nearly any hard contact. He would have been able to take the Phils later into the game but dealt with forearm cramping and had to leave the game after warming up for the sixth inning.

It was a disappointing finish for Hellickson's solid start. Holding this Nationals lineup in check is no small feat. Even with starting shortstop Trea Turner on the 10-day disabled list, the team is chalk full of solid lefty hitters with Adam Eaton, Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy all in the top four of the lineup. Hellickson had trouble with the Nationals at times last season (5.09 ERA in 23 innings), so the performance on Sunday was encouraging.

So far on the year, Hellickson has been an ace ... in short bursts. He has a 0.90 ERA but has mustered only five innings in each of his two starts. Run prevention is great, but the Phillies' bullpen could also use a rest with Hellickson working late in the game. It doesn't help that his ERA and his lack of home runs allowed are unsustainable over the long run. However, the focus is one start at a time.

Don't be surprised if the Nationals start Adam Lind at first base against Hellickson again. He is 10 for 34 with three doubles and five walks in his career vs. Hellickson despite going 0 for 2 last time out. Murphy and Jayson Werth have home runs off the righty while catcher Matt Wieters is just 6 for 30, which may be why he didn't start vs. Hellickson last weekend.

2. Tommy Joseph's slow start
While Howie Kendrick and Odubel Herrera are off to hot starts at the top of the lineup, Tommy Joseph has yet to hit his stride further down in the six hole. This is Joseph's first April in the big leagues as well as his first full year as the Phillies' starting first baseman. With that in mind, it's hard to craft realistic expectations for the 25-year-old.

There are some signs that Joseph could be breaking out of his season-opening slump. After starting 2 for 23 at the dish, he had his first extra-base hit -- a double -- on Wednesday before taking Stephen Strasburg deep for a home run on Friday. We know that Joseph has plenty of power after 21 home runs in just 347 plate appearances last season, so some big swings are hardly out of the ordinary.

Joseph isn't out of the woods though. He's struck out in a third of his plate appearances so far this season and still has an ugly batting line. However, the .143/.194/.286 line he's currently sporting isn't his true talent level. Joseph's slump shouldn't be a long-term thing.

3. Roark vs. the Phillies
In five starts last season, Roark dominated the Phillies. The crafty right-hander was 3-0 with a 0.79 ERA over five starts and 34 innings. He had a quality start every time he faced the Phillies and went seven innings in all but one appearance. Sure, Roark had a career year in many ways last season and the Phillies barely won 70 games, but it's still an impressive performance.

Prior to last season, Roark had much more pedestrian numbers against the Phils, allowing 22 runs in 28 2/3 innings while going just 2-5. It's not necessarily a coincidence that Roark improved against the Phillies while also taking tremendous strides in his overall performance, but the Phillies aren't necessarily dead in the water with the 30-year-old starter on the mound.

In 2017, Roark is off to a solid, yet unspectacular start. He's 2-0 with a 4.09 ERA, getting 20 runs of support over his two starts. His 9/2 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 11 innings is solid to begin the year. 

Only one Phillies hitter has a home run off Roark -- Freddy Galvis, who is 4 for 13 with the HR and a HBP vs. the righty. Herrera has the best numbers against him, going 7 for 15 off him. Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco are both 4 for 14 vs. Roark.

4. Players to watch
Phillies: Kendrick is off to a roaring start for the Phillies. While he went just 1 for 4 on Friday, he's still batting .343 with a .410 on-base percentage in the early going.

Nationals: It's gone a bit under the radar with Ryan Zimmerman's resurgence, but Jayson Werth has started his contract season with a bang. He's batting .306 with a .556 slugging percentage and three home runs. Not bad for the former Phillie.

5. This and that
• In five appearances this season, Jeanmar Gomez has allowed seven runs over 5 1/3 innings. While he gave up the winning run Friday, his ERA actually went down from 12.46 to 11.81.

• Nationals new closer Blake Treinen has had a shaky start to 2017 (5.06 ERA in six games). He has a 2.70 ERA in 16 appearances against the Phillies in his four-year career.

• The Phillies' loss in walk-off fashion on Friday was their first extra-inning game this year. They were 7-6 in extras last season.

Best of MLB: Royals storm back in 9th inning for win over Blue Jays

Best of MLB: Royals storm back in 9th inning for win over Blue Jays

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Whit Merrifield hit a two-run, two-out double that capped a four-run rally in the ninth inning, and the Kansas City Royals beat the Toronto Blue Jays 5-4 on Friday night to reach .500 for the first time since April.

With their 10th win in 12 games, the Royals improved to 36-36. They were 6-6 before play on April 20, then went on a nine-game losing streak that night and dropped as low as 10-20, seven games out of first place. They trail AL Central-leading Cleveland by three games.

Toronto took a 2-1 lead into the ninth and extended it when Josh Donaldson and Justin Smoak hit RBI singles off Joakim Soria (4-2) (see full recap).

Dodgers cruise past Rockies for 8th straight win
LOS ANGELES -- Yasiel Puig homered and left-hander Alex Wood kept his record perfect as the streaking Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the NL West rival Colorado Rockies 6-1 on Friday night for their eighth consecutive victory.

The Dodgers have won 14 of their last 15 games. They have scored at least six runs in seven consecutive games.

Wood (8-0) allowed one run in six innings. He gave up only three hits and walked two, retiring his last 10 batters.

The Dodgers have homered in 15 consecutive games, tied for fourth-longest streak in club history. The last time they managed it was in 1977. Their record is 24 consecutive games with a home run.

Rookie left-hander Kyle Freeman (8-4) allowed five runs and a career-high 10 hits and three walks in six innings (see full recap).

Torreyes hits walk-off single to lift Yanks over Rangers
NEW YORK -- Ronald Torreyes hit a game-winning single with two outs in the 10th inning after midnight, and the New York Yankees edged the Texas Rangers 2-1 on a rainy Friday night for just their second win in 10 games.

Brett Gardner lined a tying home run with one out in the New York ninth off closer Matt Bush. After Chasen Shreve (2-1) escaped a bases-loaded jam in the top of the 10th, Torreyes kept the Yankees atop the AL East.

Yu Darvish and Masahiro Tanaka kept it scoreless into the late innings in the first major league meeting between the Japanese stars (see full recap).

Mark Leiter Jr. picks up 1st big-league win as Phillies cool off Diamondbacks

Mark Leiter Jr. picks up 1st big-league win as Phillies cool off Diamondbacks


PHOENIX -- The clubhouse was beginning to clear and still the star of the game had not yet emerged from the shower.

"He's in there cleaning the guacamole and mayo out of his hair," Cameron Rupp said with a laugh.

Eventually Mark Leiter Jr. made it out of the shower and over to his locker where equipment man Phil Sheridan presented him with three game balls, souvenirs from not only his first big-league start but his first big-league win, as well.

"It's something I'll never forget," the 26-year-old right-hander from Toms River, N.J., said pitching six shutout innings to backbone the Phillies' 6-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on Friday night (see Instant Replay).

"I’ll be honest, I was probably more excited for this than I was for my major-league debut. To go out there and contribute to a win is what I was hoping to do."

Leiter, a 22nd-round draft pick by the Phillies in 2013, had never made it onto the 40-man roster until the Phils needed a reliever in mid-April and gave him a shot after he'd gotten off to a good start at Triple A. He spent six weeks in the majors and made 12 relief appearances before being sent back to Triple A the first weekend of June.

Leiter worked as a starter during his time back at Triple A. He pitched six shutout innings against Syracuse in his last start and got the call to come back up when Jerad Eickhoff went on the disabled list with a back strain earlier this week.

Leiter's return assignment was not easy: The Diamondbacks are one of the best hitting clubs in the majors and the best on their home turf. They entered the game scoring 6.48 runs per game at home and with an .886 OPS, both major-league bests.

None of that fazed Leiter.

"In my opinion, this is the big leagues and it doesn’t matter who the lineup is," he said. "They all have the ability to hit and hit well. They’re all big-leaguers and they've earned their right to be big-leaguers. I was just trying to pitch to the team you're facing that day."

Leiter trusted his low-90s fastball and commanded it well. He mixed in his secondary stuff and kept the D-backs off-balance with his splitter. He scattered three hits, walked one and struck out five. He showed no fear.

"Great performance," manager Pete Mackanin said. "He made it look easy. He made a lot of good hitters look bad with his split. For him to come up and do that to a real good hitting team was outstanding."

Leiter's dad, Mark Sr., pitched for the Phillies in 1997 and 1998. He made the trip in from New Jersey to watch his son's first big-league start.

"I guess they found him on TV," Leiter said. "That's what they were telling me. I'm sure he wasn't too pleased they found him because he was probably stressed out. But I think it was probably worth him coming out here. He's probably happy."

How could he not be?

Leiter's teammates were definitely happy.

They treated Leiter to a raucous postgame dousing that included as many different condiments as could be found in the clubhouse dining room. One laughing player had a bottle of ketchup in his hands. Another had a squeeze bottle of honey.

And then there was the guacamole and mayo that Rupp mentioned.

"In his first major-league start, to come up here and do that in what is known as a good hitters’ park - that proves Mark is pretty strong between the ears," Tommy Joseph said. "He's been one of those under-the-radar guys that people have doubted, but his mentality and ability to prepare are second to none."

Joseph played a big role in the win, smacking a two-run homer in the ninth inning to give the Phillies some breathing room. Maikel Franco also had a big home run and Freddy Galvis contributed an important triple that led to a Phillies' run in the first inning.

The Phils still have the worst record in the majors at 24-48, but they've won two in a row, both on the back of good starting pitching performances. Aaron Nola pitched 7 1/3 innings of one-run ball on Thursday.

And Leiter delivered on Friday.

"It's good to see those back-to-back," Mackanin said.