Phillies-Nationals 5 things: Can Phils' bats keep momentum vs. Stephen Strasburg?

Phillies-Nationals 5 things: Can Phils' bats keep momentum vs. Stephen Strasburg?

Phillies (2-3) vs. Nationals (3-2)
1:35 p.m. on CSN and streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports app

The Phillies are coming off quite a high after putting up a 17-spot on the Nationals Saturday night. It feels somewhat remarkable that the Phillies have outscored the Nats 23-10 in this series but are just 1-1. That's baseball for you.

Anyway, here are five things to know for Sunday afternoon.

1. Breaking out the bats
Whoa. That's the main way to react to seeing Saturday's box score. Watching the onslaught the Phillies had against Jeremy Guthrie in the first inning was mesmerizing, putting up 12 runs before the Nats could even get three outs. 

Four hitters had two-hit games and two had three hits -- Michael Saunders and Howie Kendrick. Saunders was a home run from the cycle. Nice to get the newcomers in on the action early. Cesar Hernandez had a pair of extra-base knocks, including a stand-up triple, and Tommy Joseph had his first two hits of the season, raising his average to .118.

The only starter not to get a hit was Freddy Galvis (Aaron Nola even picked up a single). However, Galvis got a run in via a sac fly, so he didn't go home completely empty-handed.

After a game like that so early in the season, you're bound to see some eye-popping numbers. Here are some: Kendrick sports a .444/.474/.667 batting line. Odubel Herrera has a .522 on-base percentage. Guthrie, perhaps pitching in the final game of his 13-season career, now has a 135 ERA, tied with Francisco Liriano for the worst in baseball.

It'll be tough for the Phillies to produce another 17 runs with the guy they'll be facing Sunday.

2. The $175 million man
Stephen Strasburg, now an eight-year veteran, is making the second start of his in the big leagues.

After signing a $175 million extension last season, Strasburg figures to be in Washington for a long time, which means the Phillies will have to continue competing with the overpowering right-hander. Along with Max Scherzer, Strasburg helps create a pretty daunting duo atop the Nationals' rotation for the foreseeable future.

Strasburg made just one start against the Phils last season, getting a win despite allowing four runs in seven innings. For his career, he's 8-2 vs. the Phillies, sporting a 2.37 ERA in 110 innings. It's his best ERA against a division opponent and he's dominated the Phils at times, striking out 138 in 110 innings.

In his opening day start, Strasburg picked up a win over the Marlins. He averaged 95.8 mph on his fastball, touching 98 on MLB's PitchFX system. He struck out just three batters, but didn't walk anyone and gave up just two runs over seven innings. After needing the bullpen for over seven innings Saturday, the Nationals could use another long outing from Strasburg to save some of their arms.

3. Can Hellickson repeat opening day?
For the second straight season, Jeremy Hellickson put together a strong performance on opening day in Cincinnati. And for the second straight year, he'll also be making his first home start against the Nationals. He's hoping it goes much better than last season.

On that game last April 15, the Nationals tattooed him for six runs, five of which were earned, in just three innings. That game distorted his overall numbers against the Nats last season (1-2 with a 5.09 ERA). In his other three starts, he had a 3.60 ERA and even beat the Nats later in April.

The veteran righty, who turned 30 on Saturday, was the Phillies' de facto ace last year and was particularly good at CBP. He was 7-4 with a 3.16 ERA in 99 2/3 innings at home and he seemingly got better as the season went on. His opening day start vs. the Reds was encouraging even though he lasted just 5-plus innings. You'll take a starter holding the opponent to just one run every single time and, unlike last season, the team was able to hold the lead.

4. Players to watch
Phillies: Odubel Herrera really seems to be seeing the ball well in the early going. His quick start to 2017 got him an All-Star appearance and there's no reason he can't do the same this year.

Nationals: After a lackluster 2016, Ryan Zimmerman worked on lifting the ball with authority going into this season. It's been mostly successful with two home runs and a double with a .650 slugging percentage after he had just a .642 OPS (.370 SLG) last year.

5. This and that
• The Phillies had lost seven straight games to the Nationals at CBP before Saturday's win. They haven't won a home series vs. the Nats since Sept. 25-27, 2015.

• Guthrie's loss yesterday tied him with former Pittsburgh Pirate Jim Rooker for the third-most career losses (109) by a pitcher from Oregon. Guthrie has the fifth most wins (91) of any Oregonian. Former Tigers great Mickey Lolich leads both categories.

• Hernandez is 5 for 15 with two doubles off Strasburg. Maikel Franco is 3 for 10 with a home run and two RBI.

• Jayson Werth, Stephen Drew and Daniel Murphy each have one career homer off Hellickson. Bench bat Adam Lind and catcher Matt Wieters have seen him the most of any Nationals, going 10 for 32 and 6 for 30 against the righty, respectively.

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:

Phillies
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

Dodgers
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

Phillies-Dodgers 5 things: Phils face resurgent Brandon McCarthy

Phillies-Dodgers 5 things: Phils face resurgent Brandon McCarthy

Phillies (11-10) at Dodgers (12-12)
9:10 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

The Phillies' six-game winning streak came to an abrupt end out west Friday night. The beauty of baseball is that you have a chance to start a new streak a day later. Zach Eflin looks to avenge a poor performance from last season while the Dodgers send out veteran righty Brandon McCarthy at home.

Here are five things to know for Saturday evening's game.

1. Two strong starts for Eflin
In his second season as a big-league starter, Eflin is off to a lot better start than last year. 

If you remember his MLB debut, he gave up eight runs and retired just eight batters against a Blue Jays team that could hit the snot out of the ball … and did. Through two starts, Eflin had a 10.80 ERA and two losses to his résumé before coming into his own over the next two months.

This year has been just about the opposite. Eflin clearly looks comfortable on a major-league mound. He's turned Clay Buchholz's spot in the rotation into a positive. He's allowed just three runs and one home run in 12 innings, good for a 2.25 ERA.

The modern thinking is that an ideal pitcher strikes out a lot of batters, avoids walks and home runs, and induces weak contact. Eflin has done all but the strikeouts. His sinker has been marvelous and the Mets/Braves had little chance to do damage against it. Pete Mackanin described the sinker as a bowling ball. That just about says it all. The sinker won't induce that many swings and misses — thus the lack of strikeouts — but he can throw it in the zone and keep hitters off balance.

The Dodgers kind of ended Eflin's season last year. In reality, it was dueling knee injuries that did Eflin in (see story), but the Dodgers were the last team to take advantage of an ailing Eflin, hitting three home runs and scoring seven runs in just three innings Aug. 8. Even the outs in that game were generally line drives. Chase Utley, Yasmani Grandal and Corey Seager — all of whom could be in the lineup Saturday — took the now-23-year-old righty deep.

Being a righty against the Dodgers isn't all that advantageous as the team boasts those three hitters and Adrian Gonzalez, Andrew Toles and Cody Bellinger as lefties who can put up disruptive plate appearances. Unfortunately for the Phillies, they have a rotation full of righties and are unable to take advantage of the Dodgers' platoon issues.

2. Dodgers send out resurgent righty
The first two seasons of Brandon McCarthy's deal with the Dodgers essentially went by the wayside. Now, the 33-year-old starter is picking up where he left off in 2014.

McCarthy has long been one of the more entertaining and thoughtful players in baseball, as evidenced by his Twitter account. The veteran righty has also been a steadily average to occasionally above-average pitcher in 12 MLB seasons, bouncing around teams mostly on the west coast. He posted career-worst numbers with the Diamondbacks in the first half of 2014, but he rebounded in the second half with the Yankees, pitching to a 2.89 ERA in 90 innings despite the hitter-friendly confines of Yankee Stadium.

He parlayed that second half into a four-year, $48 million deal with the Dodgers and that was almost immediately derailed by Tommy John surgery. Going into 2017, he had thrown just 63 innings and made only 13 starts in the first half of his contract. McCarthy was one of many Dodgers pitchers on the disabled list during a 2016 with a record-setting number of injuries for the club.

But now he's apparently back to form and, perhaps most importantly, he's healthy. He's made it through four starts unscathed this year and is 3-0 with a 2.25 ERA to boot. He's allowed just 18 hits in 24 innings. Similar to Eflin, he relies primarily on a dynamic sinker that sits in the low-to-mid 90s. He also features a low 90s cutter and an 80 mph curveball, both of which grade out well this season.

Only three current Phillies have any history vs. McCarthy. With his history in the AL West with the Mariners, Michael Saunders has faced McCarthy plenty with sub-par results, going 2 for 13 with five strikeouts. Freddy Galvis is 3 for 3 off the righty while Andres Blanco is 0 for 1.

3. How does the Dodgers' bullpen stack up?
Going into Friday's action, the Dodgers' bullpen had a 3.15 collective ERA, good for eighth in all of baseball and second-best in the National League. As a whole, the crew strikes out 10.29 batters per nine innings and has the highest wins above replacement of any bullpen in baseball.

Any conversation about the Dodgers' 'pen starts with Kenley Jansen, one of the premier closers in the game today. He overwhelms hitters with a cutter many consider reminiscent of Mariano Rivera. It isn't quite up to Rivera's level, but it is still wildly effective. He has a 2.16 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 9 1/3 innings this season, locking down six saves in six chances. He dominated the Phillies on Friday night.

Setting up for him primarily is righty flamethrower Pedro Baez. Baez pitches with a dreadfully slow pace but great results, striking out batters at a similar clip and takes a 1.08 ERA into the weekend. Righty Josh Fields and lefty Grant Dayton each hadn't allowed a run this year before Fields let one up in the eighth inning Friday while lefty Luis Avilan has been effective primarily vs. lefties. 

While Chris Hatcher and Ross Stripling, both righties, each has a loss this season, they've still achieved OK results pitching often in low leverage situations. The biggest disappointment for Los Angeles has been the offseason signing of former Giants closer Sergio Romo. The 34-year-old has a 10.57 ERA through 10 appearances and has walked as many batters as he's struck out. If the Phillies get to face Romo in a big situation this weekend, it'll be a tremendous opportunity to do some damage.

4. Players to watch
Phillies: Freddy Galvis takes a 10-game hitting streak into action on Saturday night. Not only does he have good numbers off McCarthy, he's also simply off to the best start to his career. The Phillies' shortstop has traditionally been a better second half hitter but he has a career-best .269 average and .487 slugging percentage thus far.

Dodgers: While he is currently playing corner outfield, rookie Cody Bellinger is the Dodgers' first baseman of the future. Currently the No. 10 prospect in baseball, he had five home runs in Triple A Oklahoma City and is projected to have legitimate in-game power at the major league level. 

5. This and that
• The Phillies went 2-4 vs. the Dodgers last season and haven't won a series at Dodger Stadium since April 21-24, 2014, when they took three of four.

• Frequent trade partners in recent history, the Phillies and Dodgers have teamed up for eight trades since the 2012 trade deadline. Eflin himself came to the Phillies in the 2014 Jimmy Rollins trade.

• McCarthy is typically at his worst in April. He has a 5.01 ERA for March/April in his career, his worst for any month. However, he pitched well the two times he faced the Phillies. He threw eight shutout innings in 2013 and gave up two runs while striking out 12 in seven innings during the 2014 season.