A midweek matchup between the Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies may not carry as much luster now that the Nationals have seemingly declared themselves out of the race, but Tuesday’s game between these two squads still bears watching as it features an important head-to-head matchup in the race for the NL Cy Young Award as Max Scherzer and Aaron Nola face-off in a rematch of last week when Nola got the better end of the stick.
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ESPN Sunday Night Baseball – Washington Nationals vs. Philadelphia Phillies
Date and Time:Tuesday, August 28, 2018, 7:05 p.m. ET
Location:Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
2018 MLB Betting Odds at BETCRIS:(Check Back Later)
Nationals vs. Phillies 2018 MLB TV Coverage:MLB Network
Max Scherzer and Aaron Nola were the pitchers on Thursday when the Phillies walked away with a 2-0 lead and Mad Max was given a loss despite allowing just two runs, the only two he’s allowed in his last three games.
These are two of the top candidates for the NL Cy Young Award, making their rematch even more interesting.
Scherzer comes into the game with the likely lead in the Cy Young race, despite losing last time. He’s 16-6 with a 2.13 ERA and 0.886 WHIP in 181.2 innings of work. He’s made 27 starts and has already amassed an 8.8 rWAR.
The three-time Cy Young Award winner is having, arguably, his best season yet. He’s got a 200 ERA+ and is the league leader in wins, strikeouts, strikeout rate and strikeout to walk ratio. Even as a .500 team, the Nationals are 18-9 when Scherzer takes the hill. By comparison, a Phillies’ team with a better overall record is only slightly better when Nola is on the mound, going 19-7 in his starts.
Not only was Nola able to outduel Scherzer Thursday night, he also boasts a superior winning percentage at .833. He’s 15-3.
Nola’s ERA and ERA+ are in line with Scherzer at 2.13 and 196. He’s thrown a few less innings and has a considerable lower number of strikeouts, but he’s not as much of a strikeout pitcher. He’s kept his WHIP and FIP low by inducing weak contact and using the defense behind him.
The young right-hander has been particularly strong of late with a 1.59 ERA in his last 11 starts and has accumulated 8.6 rWAR, just behind Scherzer. This will be a fun matchup.
Washington’s White Flag
This past week, the Nationals traded Daniel Murphy to the Cubs and Matt Adams back to his former team, the St. Louis Cardinals, in moves that signaled that the Nationals’ management was finally ready to throw in the towel on 2018.
Washington also put Bryce Harper on waivers with the intent to trade him, but no deal came to fruition and Harper was pulled back off waivers.
The team does still have Harper—who has been on-fire since winning the Home Run Derby—along with a slew of other talented bats like Juan Soto, Trea Turner, Anthony Rendon and Adam Eaton. Meanwhile, like Harper, Ryan Zimmerman is having a strong, bounce-back second half, too.
The Nationals still have a plethora of offensive talent. Wilmer Difo is back getting the bulk of at bats at second base again and the catcher position remains an offensive wasteland, but otherwise this team has some good players across the diamond, it’s just a matter of being able to play as a team and generate runs and wins. The offense has scored runs, sometimes in bunches, but while some teams are better than the sum of their parts, the Nats are worse.
Holland’s Change of Scenery
The bullpen was the issue for the Nationals last year, so they went out and added Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson and Brandon Kintzler. The trio solved the seventh, eighth and ninth innings. None of those three are on the active roster right now. All three were brought back this season, but Doolittle and Mason are on the DL and Kintzler was traded at the deadline.
To add insult to injury, Shawn Kelley was DFAed for showing up the manager, A.J. Cole was terrible as a fifth start but has been great since going to New York’s bullpen, and others like Sammy Solis and Trevor Gott proved uneffective.
The Nationals even went out and got Kelvin Herrera far in advance of the trade deadline, but he hasn’t been as good since joining Washington.
Interestingly, the much less heralded pick up of Greg Holland has been much better. After the Cardinals essentially gave up on the former closer, the Nationals scooped him up amidst their relief injury issues and he’s looked like a different pitcher in his first 10 appearances. Dave Martinez has given him a short leash in outings, but he’s provided some big outs. Tim Collins is another arm on the rebound that’s looked good in a small sample size as Mike Rizzo remakes the bullpen on the fly out of necessity.
Phillies Not Pheeling the Offense
Offensively, the Phillies are ranked No.20 in baseball in runs scored and have a rather unimpressive .237 average as a team. Since the start of August, the average has been rather consistent, but the OBP and OPS have both dropped as the team’s drawing fewer walks.
Wilson Ramos has been a huge boost to the offense when he’s played, but the veteran catcher continues to nurse tight hamstrings along with wrist and other ailments that’ve kept him off the field more than he’s been on it since he was acquired by Philadelphia.
When he does play, Ramos’ bat in the heart of the order helps deepen a lineup that’s missing a strong bat up the middle. While Odubel Herrera got off to a hot start, even he’s cooled off considerably and has—over the course of the season—averaged out to an average offensive contributor with a 102 OPS+.
With Ramos, the offense is deeper, but the middle infield is still lacking. Asdrubal Cabrera has struggled mightily since he was acquired. Meanwhile, Cesar Hernandez has seen his OPS steadily drop and Scott Kingery has not been able to adjust to big league pitching.
Yes, Rhys Hoskins is a good hitter, but other than him and Ramos—when he plays—the team doesn’t have another player with an OPS+ over 109.
For the Phillies, the pitching has carried the offense this year. The Philadelphia offense has been good enough, with enough options to score enough runs for the pitching staff to do its job. The Phillies are the best equipped team to win a slugfest, but there are also some concerns in close games lately as closer Seranthony Dominguez has faltered just when the team needed him most.
In his last 11 appearances, Dominguez has allowed eight runs on 10 hits, including three home runs in a 10-innings span. He’s come into the game seven times in a save situation and has only covered the save in four of those chances.
Gabe Kapler has started experimenting with other options in the final innings, including Pat Neshek who is 3-for-3 in save situations of late and has pitched rather well since coming off the DL. Neshek is a good veteran reliever but doesn’t have the dominating stuff you want from your closer. He’s a better change-of-pace look for a lineup a bit earlier in the game.
Tommy Hunter is the only other Phillies reliever with closer experience, but his closer experiment in Baltimore was short lived before Zach Britton took over the role. While he’s proven to be an effective set up man in his career, he’s been a bit too homer prone in do-or-die situations.
When you consider the names and the stuff the Phillies can use in the late innings, there’s enough for Kapler to find a way, but Dominguez has simplified the end of the game for the rookie manager, at least until his recent struggles.
Washington Nationals vs. Philadelphia Phillies Free Picks
It’s hard to bet against either Scherzer or Nola and both should have a great game. Just like one had to come out on the losing end when the faced each other last week, the same is true on Tuesday. The Phillies are the better team. They’ve shown that this year, but the Nationals still have plenty of pop in their lineup and the names to matchup with any team. Between Harper, Soto and Rendon, the Nationals will scratch across a run or two against Nola and that could be enough, particularly given Dominguez’s recent struggles and Philadelphia’s unlikelihood to do much against Scherzer.
Washington Nationals vs. Philadelphia Phillies Pick: The Phillies are the better team and will be favored at home, particularly with their ace on the hill, but take the runs and the Nationals with Scherzer on the bump.
Washington Nationals vs. Philadelphia Phillies Score Prediction: Nationals 3, Phillies 2
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