The Nationals (3-3) will continue their road trip by heading to Philadelphia for a three game set with the Phillies (5-1). The Nationals are riding a high after picking up the final two games in a three game set with the Mets, and will look to get redemption after a poor opening series against their neighbors to the north.
It wont be easy. The Phillies swept their past series against the Astros and continue to show the talent that have made them the National League Champions the past two seasons. The Nationals have improved since the two teams first met however. The clubs starting rotation has seemingly picked up the pace since it's first run through, and the bullpen has worked out its early kinks to be very effective over the past four games. Washington will look to improve upon it's .500 record and make a mark on a talented National League East.
The Phillies on the other hand will continue to stay hot. Winners in five of six games this year, the Phillies lead the majors in batting (.337), Runs (41), On Base Percentage (.431), Slugging (.540), and wOBA (.420). The club enters 2010 with high expectations after retaining the core of their talent while gaining one of the best starting pitchers in the game, Roy Hallady. For Philadelphia this series is a stepping stone to their season goal; regain the title of World Series Champions.
PHILLIES LAST SERIES
Philadelphia is coming off a sweep of the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. The Phillies began by walloping the Astros 8-0 last Friday. Behind starting pitcher J.A. Happ the club had seven extra base hits and 16 total hits in the shutout victory. Philadelphia continued their winning ways, coming from behind to top Houston 9-6 on Saturday, and by holding on to a 2-1 lead in a pitchers duel between Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt on Sunday.
The Phillies continued to get production from the top-half of their line-up, the same crew that helped take two-of-three at Nationals park last week. Placido Polanco has joined familiar faces Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, and Chase Utley.
Jimmy Rollins: 4/12, 4 R, 1 2b, 1 HR
Placido Polanco: 6/13, 3 R, 2 RBI
Shane Victorino: 3/14, 2k
Cole Hamels (1-0 3.60 ERA) vs. Jason Marquis (0-1, 13.50 ERA)
Kyle Kendrick (0-0, 11.25 ERA) vs. Craig Stammen (0-0, 7.20 ERA)
TBD vs. TBD
LIBERALIZE THE PITCH COUNTS?
Jim Riggleman has kept his starters on a very short leash to begin the season. Craig Stammen was only allowed to throw 75 pitches in his first outing. Garret Mock was only allowed 84, and even Livan Hernandez was only allowed 88. While there is merit to the idea of taking it easy on starting pitchers arms early, it may be possible to be too cautious.
Mock was taken out of the game in the fourth inning of his start. While he was obviously having control problems, he had been effective on balls put into play with batters hitting .238 when making contact. By removing him from the game with only one out recorded in the fourth inning, Riggleman put a 17 out burden on the bullpen, coming only days after both John Lannan and Jason Marquis struggled in their first starts. It is likely that Mock could have stayed in to at least finish the fourth inning, if not the fifth, instead the Nationals bullpen got lit-up for six runs.
THE LUCK STOPS HERE
As stated above, the Phillies have been hands down the most dominant hitting team in major league baseball through the first week of the season. While this is likely a result of having one of the top line-ups in baseball the club is also hitting an unsustainable .358 on balls put into play. That number currently leads the majors by nearly 30 points, and is well ahead of their .286 mark in 2009. Philadelphia will eventually have to cool down at the plate, as the ground balls and line drives that are currently missing gloves will inevitably find them.
While the Nationals can't just simply hope the Phillies will return to earth with balls put into play, there is an adjustment they can make. Washington is currently leading the majors in walks per-nine-innings, posting a 3.97 line. Washington will benefit from keeping Phillies runners off the base paths, and in doing so, minimize the harm of Philadelphia's good fortune.