Bryce Harper’s month-and-a-half absence due to a knee injury was potentially extended an additional 24 hours by flu-like symptoms as the 2015 National League MVP sat out the opener of the Washington Nationals’ three-game series against the host Philadelphia Phillies. Harper aims to return to the lineup for the first time since Aug. 12 on Tuesday as the Nationals vie their 24th win in their last 31 encounters versus the Phillies.
“You know Bryce, he is champing at the bit to play. So it’s just another minor setback,” manager Dusty Baker told reporters prior to Washington’s 3-1 win on Monday. Michael Taylor belted a two-run shot in that contest to improve to 7-for-21 in his last six games overall and 14-for-44 with four homers this season versus Philadelphia. While the Nationals have won three in a row and six of their last eight as they gear up for the postseason, the cellar-dwelling Phillies have dropped four of five on the heels of a 7-2 stretch. Cesar Hernandez is 8-for-14 during his four-game hitting streak and is 23-for-73 versus Washington this season.
TV: 7:05 p.m. ET, MASN (Washington), CSN Philadelphia
PITCHING MATCHUP: Nationals LH Gio Gonzalez (15-7, 2.68 ERA) vs. Phillies RH Jake Thompson (2-2, 4.14)
Gonzalez improved to 7-2 in his last nine starts on Wednesday after allowing two runs on three hits in seven innings of a 7-3 victory at Atlanta. The 32-year-old surrendered two solo homers in that contest and has been taken deep five times in his last five outings. Gonzalez has yet to allow more than three earned runs in 12 career starts at Citizens Bank Park, and has gotten the better of Maikel Franco (1-for-19, four strikeouts), Aaron Altherr (1-for-15, six strikeouts) and Tommy Joseph (2-for-11).
Thompson turned in his second straight strong outing on Wednesday after permitting one run on three hits in five innings of a no-decision versus the Los Angeles Dodgers. The 23-year-old was shelled in his last encounter versus Washington, however, yielding seven runs on as many hits in five frames of an 11-10 loss on Sept. 8. Thompson has kept Trea Turner (2-for-12) under wraps, although Daniel Murphy is 4-for-7 against the right-hander.
1. Washington OF Jayson Werth is a blistering 15-for-36 with three homers, nine RBIs and as many runs scored versus his former team this season.
2. Philadelphia rookie RF Nick Williams was saddled with a three-strikeout performance for the third time in his last eight games in the series opener.
3. Turner struck out three times in an 0-for-5 performance on Monday, dropping to 9-for-53 versus the Phillies this season.
PREDICTION: Nationals 5, Phillies 0