Jul 7, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (11) is congratulated by Bryce Harper (34) after hitting a grand slam during the third inning against the San Diego Padres at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Phillies vs. Nationals series preview-Can the Phils slow down the red-hot Nats?

Jun 20, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann (27) throws during the fourth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Monday night, the Phillies begin another series against a divisional rival when they take on the Washington Nationals in a four-game set.

Last week at this time, the sentiment of most Phillies fans seemed to be “Sell now!”  People wanted to see veteran players traded away as soon as possible.  After series wins against the Pirates and the Braves, there has been a change in attitude.  Fans are now carrying more of a “Let’s see how things go until the All-Star break” mindset.

What’s New with the Nats?

The Nationals have recently been playing more like the contender everyone expected this season.  They’ve won four games in a row (albeit against the slumping Padres) and seven of their last ten.  Their hitters started off the season slow, but over their last 20 games, the Nats have averaged over five runs per game.

Nats Player Who is Not Entirely Horrible

Starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann was named to the All-Star team, and is considered a candidate to start the game.  At 12-3 with a 2.57 ERA, he has been the Nats’ best starter this season, outperforming his more heralded rotation mate Stephen Strasburg.

Nats Player Who is Horrible

June 19, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Washington Nationals pitcher Drew Storen (22) delivers to the plate during the tenth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. The Nationals defeated the Phillies 6-2 in 11 innings. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

When they drafted him with the 10th pick of the 2009 amateur draft, the Nationals envisioned Drew Stored as their future closer.  Four years later, Storen has a horrific playoff meltdown under his belt, and seems to have settled into a role as a scuffling middle reliever.

Tweet that Should Cause Some Optimism

Believe it or not, the Phillies outfield has actually become a team strength.

Tweet that Should Cause Some Pessimism

For whatever reason, Hairston excels against the Phillies (Career 1.025 OPS).  Now that he’s on the Nats, the Phillies will likely be seeing a lot more of him.

Final Analysis

The Phillies are straddling the line between contenders and also-rans.  Wins against the Pirates and Braves were a good start, but if the Phillies really have any hopes of contending, they’ll need to continue playing well through the All-Star break.  A series win against their divisional rival would go a long way towards helping their chances.


Tags: Baseball Drew Storen Jordan Zimmermann Mike Lacy MLB Philadelphia Phillies Scott Hairston Series Preview Stephen Strasburg Washington Nationals

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