The Washington Nationals (16-9) are set to open a three game weekend series against a familiar foe, the Philadelphia Phillies (13-13) at Nationals Park. This is the first meeting between the two division rivals this season.
In years past, Nationals Park has been referred to as South Citizens Bank Ballpark because of Phillies fans tendency to invade Washington, but that may not be the case this time as the Phillies have had an uneven season without All-Stars Ryan Howard and Chase Utley.
This will be a huge statement series for the Nationals. Philadelphia is at a crossroads thanks to all the adversity they've had to deal with this season, this includes the power shift in the division where each team in the NL East has shown drastic improvement or exceeded expectations (unless your the Marlins). It's no secret the Philies are not the same team they were the past five seasons. That's not to say they're still not as dangerous, because they'll always be the team to beat until someone dethrones them, but the Phillies haven't had the opportunity to click on all cylinders, and when they do anything is possible. Philadelphia knows the significance if this series. The early success topped off with the arrival of Bryce Harper has created a buzz in DC. People around baseball are starting to realize that these aren't the "same old Nats", but a team that needs to start being taken seriously.
The intimidating bats of Howard and Utley have been replaced by guys like Ty Wigginton, Jim Thome, Pete Orr, and Freddy Galvis. While the veteran Wigginton has thrived early on, Galvis is hitting a meak .190 and Thome an even worse .111 though he has been battling back issues. As for Orr, the Phillies are 6-0 in games which he starts and 7-13 in games which he does not. The Nationals will also avoid facing Cliff Lee in the series. Lee, who is fighting an oblique injury, is set to come off the 15-day DL sometime next week.
Carlos Ruiz (C) .329 AVG, .575 SLG, 4 HR, 17 RBI
Jonathan Papelbon (CL) 9-9 in SVO, 0.82 ERA, hasn't allowed hit in last six appearances
Juan Pierre (LF) .324 AVG, .368 OBP, 1 3B, 4 SB
Hunter Pence (RF) .263 AVG, .302 OPB, 24 SO
Jimmy Rollins (SS) .240 AVG, .280 OPB, 0 HR, 0 3B
Kyle Kendrick (0-2, 6.59 ERA) vs. Stephen Strasburg (2-0, 1.13 ERA)
Vance Worley (2-1, 1.97 ERA) vs. Gio Gonzalez (2-1, 1.82 ERA)
Cole Hamels (3-1, 2.78 ERA) vs. Jordan Zimmermann (1-2, 1.89 ERA)