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Sep 1, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Darin Ruf (18) is congratulated by second baseman Kevin Frandsen (28) after hitting a solo home run during the fourth inning against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Reid Compton-USA TODAY Sports

Phillies vs. Nationals Series Preview: Can The Phillies End the Nats' Playoff Hopes?

After seeing their starting pitching struggle in Wrigley Field, the Phillies head home to take on the Washington Nationals.  The Nationals had been on a bit of a roll, but that momentum slowed a bit this past weekend as they dropped two out of three games to the Mets.

What’s New With the Nats

The Nats are still clinging to some hope of postseason play.  They are currently 6.5 games back from the second wild card spot. They had a strong month of August, so if they continue to play well in September, their dreams of making back to the playoffs are not completely unrealistic.  But they have almost no margin for error, and can’t afford to lose many more games.

Key Phillies Storyline

Michael Young and John McDonald were traded!  For everyone who was incredulous that the team hadn’t dealt Young before the trade deadline, you can now sleep peacefully knowing that he was sent to the Dodgers in exchange for a fringe prospect.  Surprisingly, the Dodgers also valued McDonald enough to send the Phillies a live body in exchange for him as well.

In response, Cesar Hernandez is now back with the team, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him get some playing time in center field.  Unfortunately, Michael Martinez is also back.  Hopefully, the team will feel comfortable enough with Hernandez next season so that they will not need to utilize the services of Martinez ever again.

Nats Player Who Isn’t Entirely Horrible

Aug 31, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond (20) hits a one-run broken bat single in the sixth inning against the New York Mets at Nationals Park. The Mets defeated the Nationals 11-3. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

If asked to name the best shortstops in baseball, Ian Desmond probably isn’t the first name that comes to mind.  But considering the injury woes that Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki has suffered, Desmond is likely the top player at the position in the National League.  He leads the Nationals in hits and RBIs this season, and has arguably been more valuable than his more heralded teammates like Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth.

Nats Player Who is Horrible

Drew Storen is back with the Nats after being sent to the minors due to pitching horrendously.  To his credit, he’s been improved since his return, only giving up runs in one of his nine appearances.

Tweet of Pessimism

There’s a good chance that Cole Hamels will once again not be getting much run support in his start in tonight’s series opener.

Tweet of Interest

The Phillies outfield has been a little unsettled to say the least.

Final Take

The Nats still have faint dreams of making the postseason.  It would be nice to see the Phillies deal those dreams a killing blow.

Tags: Baseball Cesar Hernandez Cole Hamels Drew Storen Ian Desmond John McDonald Michael Martinez Michael Young Mike Lacy MLB Philadelphia Phillies Series Preview Stephen Strasburg Washington Nationals

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