The Washington Nationals are preparing for what they hope will be a deep run to the postseason. The Nationals will continue to fine-tune in advance of the playoffs when they visit the Philadelphia Phillies for the opener of a three-game series on Monday.
Washington clinched homefield advantage in its National League Division Series with a win over the New York Mets on Sunday and could get star right fielder Bryce Harper (knee) back as soon as Monday. “That’s why these games are so important,” Nationals right-hander Max Scherzer told reporters after tossing six solid innings on Sunday. “Everybody’s trying to make those fine-tune adjustments to get on top of their game, so when you do get in the playoffs, you’re already accustomed to knowing how you need to play offensively and defensively.” The rebuilding Phillies showed they weren’t afraid of a playoff team by taking three of four from the Los Angeles Dodgers last week and are coming off a 2-0 win at Atlanta on Sunday that marked their final road game. Philadelphia will kick off its last homestand by sending Aaron Nola to the mound on Monday while Washington counters with A.J. Cole.
TV: 7:05 p.m. ET, MASN (Washington), CSN Philadelphia
PITCHING MATCHUP: Nationals RH A.J. Cole (2-5, 4.43 ERA) vs. Phillies RH Aaron Nola (12-10, 3.56)
Cole is finishing out the regular season in the rotation and trying to bounce back after allowing three runs and seven hits over five innings in a loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sep. 16. The 25-year-old came out of the bullpen in his previous two appearances and tossed two scoreless innings of relief against Philadelphia on Sep. 9. Cole made his first start of 2017 at Philadelphia on May 6 and allowed one run on six hits and four walks to earn a win.
Nola went seven innings in each of his last two outings and surrendered a total of three runs while striking out 19. The LSU product owns 175 strikeouts in 162 innings and punched out eight or more 10 times in his last 17 turns. Nola is making his fourth start this season against the Nationals this season and is 1-0 with a 3.31 ERA in the first three.
1. Harper is expected to be activated from the 10-day DL on Monday and play for the first time since Aug. 12.
2. Philadelphia 2B Cesar Hernandez is 7-for-10 with four runs scored and four walks in the last three games.
3. Washington 1B Ryan Zimmerman (soreness) sat out all weekend and is day-to-day.
PREDICTION: Phillies 8, Nationals 6