The Nats stumble into their home opener this year with a 0-6 record following sweeps by Braves and Marlins. Despite the bleak performance of the team however, Washington seems to be alive with the joy that comes with the return of baseball to the city.
Today's match-up in lovely Nationals Park pins the struggling Washington Nationals against the reining World Champions Philadelphia Phillies. The Phils come into the series after taking two out of three from Colorado at Coors Field. The champs seem to be suffering the same woes the Nats have been at the beginning of the season, strong hitting with piss-poor pitching.
Phillies starters are batting .292 so far this season, even with Shane Victorino and Jimmy Rollins bogging down that number with a .240 and .107 batting average respectively. Most notably Chase Utley and Jayson Werth have been on a tear the first six games of the season.
Utley is batting .476/.588/.677. He has swiped two bags and is making people forget about his hip surgery that worried so many Philly fans. Of course a hot start is nothing new for Chase Utley. It seems perennially that this second baseman puts his team in a position to win right away with an extremely hot start.
Chase Utley's last three April's:
2008: .352/.427/.741, 10 HR, 21 RBI
2007: .296/.395/.582, 5 HR, 21 RBI
2006: .348/.436/.557, 5 HR, 15 RBI
Werth quietly elevated his game last season to become a reliable everyday outfielder. He batted .273/.364/.495 with 24 HR and 73 R. So far this season worth is batting .343/.423/.652
Like the Nationals the Phillies starting pitching has crippled them this year. So far not a single starter has an ERA under 5, and only Brett Myers has pitched more than five innings in a start. The Philly bullpen on the other hand has been their saving grace. Unlike the Nationals pen, the Phils have only allowed seven earned runs so far this year, four of which coming from mop up man Chad Durbin. The Nationals will have to take advantage of this poor pitching staff to be successful.
Who to lookout for:
Ryan Howard is the most feared power hitter in the game right now. In only three and a half seasons he has hit 177 homers, 102 doubles, and has raked in 503 RBI. He has a career .969 OPS and has muscled his team into the playoffs several times now.
Sadly for the Nationals, he has used Washington as his own personal whipping post. In 72 games against Washington he has slugged 24 homers, 14 doubles, and 65 RBI. That ties Washington for the top club, with Atlanta, in allowing homers to Ryan Howard. The Nats would be advised to pitch around him this week.
Jamie Moyer (0-1. 7.20) vs. Daniel Cabrera (0-1, 7.50)
I don't think there could be a more odd match-up of starters. Jamie Moyer is old, crafty, surely, and slow. He uses pin-point accuracy and keeps batter off banace. Daniel Cabrera throws straight gass, cant find the strike zone and doesn't always look like he knows what he's doing up there.
Rest of the rotation is TBD