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.

Phillies Notes: A setback for Aaron Nola? Howie Kendrick an option at first base?

Phillies Notes: A setback for Aaron Nola? Howie Kendrick an option at first base?

LOS ANGELES — Aaron Nola is eligible to come off the disabled list on Monday, but that's not going to happen.

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin on Saturday indicated that the pitcher's recovery from a lower back strain was not going as smoothly as hoped.

Did Nola experience a setback?

"If you want to call it that," Mackanin said.

Nola threw a bullpen session on Friday and, according to Mackanin, did not bounce back as well as hoped.

"After he completed it, he had some symptoms, some soreness or tightness, I guess," Mackanin said. "It was decided he will not make his start on Monday. He will be reevaluated to determine his next bullpen.

"A couple of days ago he said he felt great and then [Friday] not so great. He's improving but he's not 100 percent. There's something bugging him. We're just going to take it day to day. We're being cautious with him this early in the season."

Nola experienced soreness in his lower back after his last start, April 20 against the Mets. The Phils have been filling the opening on their pitching staff with reliever Mark Leiter Jr. Nick Pivetta will be activated on Sunday and make his major-league debut with a start against the Dodgers.

Kendrick works at first base
First baseman Tommy Joseph and catcher Cameron Rupp, both hitting under .200, were not in the starting lineup on Saturday night as Mackanin went heavy on lefty hitters against Dodgers' righty Brandon McCarthy.

Mackanin stressed that he doesn't like to make judgments on hitters until they get around the 100 at-bat mark — Joseph has 63; Rupp 50 — but it's worth noting that first baseman Rhys Hoskins and catcher Jorge Alfaro are both off to hot starts at Triple A and could be eventual replacements if the club looks for more production.

There also could be another option brewing at first base.

Howie Kendrick has worked at first base during batting practice the last two days. On Friday, he merely tracked balls off the bat and worked on first-step breaks. He did so with a regular fielder's glove.

But on Saturday, Kendrick brought his first baseman's mitt to the field. He took some groundballs and throws from across the diamond.

This stuff doesn't happen just by accident.

Over an 11-season career, Kendrick has played in 89 games at first base. He opened the season as the Phillies' leftfielder and hit .333 (13 for 39) with an .883 OPS before suffering an oblique injury two weeks ago in Washington. Kendrick probably needs at least another week of recovery time before coming off the disabled list, but it's now reasonable to wonder if he will go back to left field or get time at first base when he returns. Using Kendrick at first would allow the Phillies to keep Aaron Altherr's bat in the lineup in left field.

Joseph can have a say in all this if he gets his bat going. He is hitting .190 (12 for 63) with just a .505 OPS.

Last May, it was Joseph who earned his way to the majors after his hot start in Triple A coincided with Ryan Howard and Darin Ruf struggling in the majors. Joseph got 347 plate appearances in the majors last season and hit .257 with 21 homers, 47 RBIs and a .813 OPS.

Tonight's lineup: Struggling Tommy Joseph, Cameron Rupp sit

Tonight's lineup: Struggling Tommy Joseph, Cameron Rupp sit

Tommy Joseph and Cameron Rupp, both struggling mightily through the first month of the season, will get Saturday night off when the Phillies take on the Dodgers in Los Angeles.

Joseph is hitting .190 with one homer and 18 strikeouts in 18 games, while Rupp is batting .180 with one homer and 20 strikeouts through 15 games. Last season, Joseph had 21 home runs and Rupp 16.

Brock Stassi will spell Joseph at first base and bat seventh. Andrew Knapp takes over for Rupp behind the plate and will bat eighth.

Daniel Nava also receives a start, playing left field. The first-year Phillie is hitting .346 with a pair of homers and as many walks as strikeouts (seven).

Zach Eflin takes the mound in a meaningful start for the right-hander (see story). He opposes resurgent Dodgers righty Brandon McCarthy (see game notes).

Here are tonight's lineups:

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Odubel Herrera, CF
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Michael Saunders, RF
6. Daniel Nava, LF
7. Brock Stassi, 1B
8. Andrew Knapp, C
9. Zach Eflin, P

1. Andrew Toles, CF
2. Corey Seager, SS
3. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
4. Yasmani Grandal, C
5. Yasiel Puig, RF
6. Cody Bellinger, LF
7. Chase Utley, 2B
8. Chris Taylor, 3B
9. Brandon McCarthy, P