Phillies-Nationals: What you need to know

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Phillies-Nationals: What you need to know

Phillies (13-15) at Washington Nationals (18-9)8:05 p.m. on CSN

The Phillies entered this weekends series with the Washington Nationals hoping to move above .500 for the first time since starting the season 1-0, and in the process pick up at least one game on the team that has spent the majority of 2012 atop the NL East.

Instead, the Phils dropped consecutive games at Nationals Park to fall to two games under .500, 5 behind Washington and into last place in the division.

The Phillies can at least salvage a frustrating series Sunday night when Cole Hamels gives them their one and only starting pitching advantage of the three-game set.

Starting Pitchers
Hamels, 3-1 with a 2.78 ERA, is off to another great start, and a team truly knows it has an ace when it can count on him to deliver a better-than-quality start when he doesnt have his best stuff working.

Hamels last start in Atlanta wasnt spectacular, but he held the Braves to two runs over six innings, struck out six and induced as many groundballs as flyballs.

Hamels has a .248 opponents batting average and a .661 OPS against, so he is essentially making all hitters look like Orioles utility infielder Robert Andino. With six strikeouts Sunday night, Hamels will re-take the NL lead on Gio Gonzalez.

This will be Hamels fourth consecutive road start. He allowed five runs in 20 innings over the last three and the Phillies won each game.

Going for the Nationals is 25-year-old righthander Jordan Zimmermann, who is 1-2 with a 1.89 ERA and 0.84 WHIP. Zimmermann allowed one run in each of his first four starts before getting tagged for four (three earned) Tuesday vs. Arizona.

Last season was Zimmermanns first full year in the bigs, and he went 8-11 with a 3.18 ERA and just 31 walks against 124 strikeouts. The Nats had him on a strict innings count of 160.

Zimmermann uses a 93-95 mile per hour fastball, a mid-80s slider, a high-70s curveball and, very rarely, a mid-80s changeup. The slider was far and away his best pitch in 2011.

Head-to-head
The Phillies are 79-51 (.608) against the Nationals since they moved to Washington in 2005, but have lost seven in a row in the series and 11 of 13. This is the fifth straight series with the Nats that the Phils havent won.

Hamels is 10-4 with a 2.71 ERA in 20 starts against Washington. Hes struck out 136 and walked 36 in 129 innings. Hes also 2-0 with a 2.05 ERA in four starts at Nationals Park.

Current Nats are batting .227 off Hamels, but do have nine home runs, seven doubles and a slugging percentage of .448. As weve written all weekend, though, those numbers are aided by Ryan Zimmerman, who is currently on the disabled list with a shoulder injury.

Zimmermann has not been effective in three starts against the Phillies. He is 0-2 with a 6.60 ERA and a .328 opponents batting average. Shane Victorino is 3 for 8 off Zimmermann with two doubles and Carlos Ruiz is 3 for 7 with a homer.

Previous games
The Nationals won the first game of the series, 4-3, in 11 innings Friday night. The Phils held leads of 2-0 and 3-1, but blown calls by a three-man umpiring crew and a leaky bullpen gave away the advantage.

The Phillies struck first Saturday but the Nats got to Vance Worley an inning later and eventually won easily, 7-1, as the often wild Gonzalez threw strike after strike.

Whos hot
Ruiz, who even found a way to contribute on a bad offensive day for the Phils. He drove in the only run Saturday with a shallow sacrifice fly. He has hit in seven of eight games, and four of those were multi-hit games. Ruiz is batting .325.352.588 on the season. Just gaudy numbers, especially for a catcher.

Laynce Nix figures to start at first base. He went 0 for 2 in his last start but in the three before that was 5 for 9 with a homer, two doubles and four RBI.
Whos not
Ty Wigginton is 0 for his last 9 with six strikeouts.
Sound off
With the Phils at risk of moving 6 games back of the Nationals with a loss, is this an early-season must-win?

E-mail Corey Seidman at cseidman@comcastsportsnet.com

Best of MLB: Josh Reddick's big day helps Astros sweep A's

Best of MLB: Josh Reddick's big day helps Astros sweep A's

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Josh Reddick homered and scored four runs, Jake Marisnick and Marwin Gonzalez each went deep and the Houston Astros beat the Oakland Athletics 12-9 on Thursday.

The major league-leading Astros completed a four-game sweep with their 10th straight victory in Oakland and their 15th win in 16 games against the A's overall. They've won 12 of their last 14 road games. Their 27-8 record away from home is the best in the majors.

Reddick also doubled, tripled and drew a walk, and Marisnick and Gonzalez each drove in three runs.

David Paulino (2-0) struck out six and gave up three runs, seven hits and two walks. The 23-year-old rookie right-hander struck out five of his first six batters in his sixth career start.

Astros center fielder George Springer left with a left hand contusion after being struck by a fastball from Jesse Hahn (3-5) leading off the game. The ball also grazed Springer's left shoulder. Springer is tied for second in the AL with 21 home runs. His status is day-to-day (see full recap).

Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks blast Rockies
DENVER -- Paul Goldschmidt and Chris Owings hit three-run homers, Zack Godley threw well into the eighth inning, and the Arizona Diamondbacks beat the Colorado Rockies 10-3 on Thursday.

Goldschmidt finished with three hits and four RBIs to increase his season total to 64, tops in the majors.

Arizona took two of three in the NL West matchup and is now tied with Colorado for second place in the division behind the Dodgers. The Diamondbacks have won 12 of 14 and are a season-high 19 games above .500.

Godley gave up a home run to Charlie Blackmon to lead off the first inning, but shut down the Rockies from there.

Blackmon drew a walk in the third, then Godley erased him with a double-play ball to end the inning. He didn't allow a hit after Nolan Arenado's one-out single in the first and retired 19 of the next 20 batters before Raimel Tapia and Pat Valaika singled and doubled to lead off the eighth.

Godley (3-1) allowed three runs on four hits and struck out eight in seven-plus innings. He also helped himself with an RBI single in the eighth.

The Diamondbacks hit a Colorado rookie pitcher hard for the second straight night. Wednesday they scored 10 runs in the fourth off Jeff Hoffman, and Thursday they battered right-hander Antonio Senzatela (9-3) for nine runs in five innings.

Owings' homer in the third, his ninth, made it 5-1, and Goldschmidt hit his 18th to cap a four-run fourth to make it 9-1 (see full recap).

Knebel sets strikeout mark as Brewers top Pirates
MILWAUKEE -- Corey Knebel broke Arodlis Chapman's modern-era record for most consecutive games by a reliever with a strikeout at a season's start, fanning a batter for the 38th straight game and closing out the Milwaukee Brewers' 4-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday.

Knebel struck out Josh Bell on a foul tip leading off the ninth. The 25-year-old right-hander retired Elias Diaz and Andrew McCutchen on popouts, finishing a four-hitter for his 12th save in 15 chances.

Chapman had set the mark since 1900 as part of a streak of 49 games for Cincinnati that began in August 2013 and ended the following August.

Travis Shaw drove in three runs with a homer and two doubles, and he came within inches of a second home run.

Chase Anderson (6-2) allowed two runs and two hits in six innings (see full recap).

Pete Mackanin 'not pleased' with Odubel Herrera's base-running blunders

Pete Mackanin 'not pleased' with Odubel Herrera's base-running blunders

Odubel Herrera’s return to the dugout was so slow that home plate umpire Nic Lentz had to clap to speed him along. Herrera obliged, accelerating to an effortless jog until he left Lentz’s sight. Then he went back to a hung head and a crawling pace as he reached the steps. Boos met his ears through it all. 

Herrera was picked off third base by Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina for the second out of the fourth inning on Thursday. It didn’t matter much as the Phillies beat the Cardinals, 5-1 (see Instant Replay), guided by Aaron Nola’s the best outing in a long time (see story)

However, Herrera made a base-running blunder at the same spot Wednesday night, when he blew through a Juan Samuel stop sign and was out by a mile at home plate to make the final out in the ninth inning of a tie game. And later on Thursday, while on second during a running count and Maikel Franco behind him at first, Herrera didn’t run on the pitch.

These are mistakes any big-leaguer should avoid. And when he’s the only player a team has signed to a long-term deal, which is supposed to last into a new era that involves winning games, the mistakes sting a bit more. 

“I’m not pleased about it,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. 

Had Wednesday night’s gaffe been avoided, maybe the Phillies could have gone on to win. Thursday’s was more embarrassing than damaging. While displeased, Mackanin, who said he thought about giving Herrera Thursday off, understood what happened this time around.

“He was running contact. And when you’re running contact, you’re susceptible to getting picked off by a catcher, especially with a left-handed hitter up,” Mackanin said. “You have to be aware of that. They’re taught to be aware of that. He just didn’t take that first hard step back. And that deters the catcher from throwing to third base. It happened.” 

The Phillies have been picked off eight times this season. Entering Thursday, only four teams had been picked off more. 

The Phillies own a run scoring percentage (percentage of base runners that eventually score) of 28.0, which puts them in the bottom third of the league. While much of that can be attributed to bad bats, mistakes like Herrera’s are not helping the cause. 

At 25, Herrera is still figuring this whole thing out. But he was the Phillies’ only All-Star last year and is supposed to be a consistent presence in the lineup. 

Andres Blanco, on the opposite end of the spectrum, first saw major-league action in 2004, and should be providing a consistent presence in the Phillies’ clubhouse. Yet on Thursday, starting at second base instead of Howie Kendrick, Blanco made a veteran play on the base paths, which felt like the remedy to Herrera’s mental lapses.

In the bottom of the fifth, with two outs and Blanco on second base, Freddy Galvis grounded a ball up the middle. Cardinals shortstop Aledmys Diaz sent an errant flip to second to get the final out, and Blanco was smart enough to round third and score after the ball got loose in the infield. Mackanin called it a heads-up play. 

“That’s the kind of players you’re looking for, the guys that are going to look for those kinds of things to happen,” Mackanin said, “and they don't assume a play is going to be made and assume they might be able to take an extra base.

“He’s a veteran. I’m glad he paid attention.”