The Washington Nationals are on the fast track to their fourth National League East title in six years, while the Philadelphia Phillies have been on the road to nowhere for longer than they’d like to admit. The Nationals look to trim their magic number of six to win the division crown on Thursday, when they begin a season-high 10-game homestand with the opener of a four-game series against the Phillies.
Ryan Zimmerman homered for the second time in four contests to highlight his three-hit performance on Wednesday as Washington completed a three-game sweep of Miami with an 8-1 rout. The 32-year-old has scored seven runs while hitting safely in nine of his last 10 contests but is just 3-for-14 lifetime versus Thursday starter Aaron Nola. While the Nationals pretty much are on cruise control with the playoffs in the distance, the Phillies fell for the third time in five games after Mother Nature provided a premature end to a rain-shortened 6-3 setback against the New York Mets on Wednesday. Odubel Herrera carries a 19-game hitting streak into Thursday’s tilt versus Tanner Roark, against whom he is 9-for-24 in his career.
TV: 7:05 p.m. ET, CSN Philadelphia, MASN (Washington)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Phillies RH Aaron Nola (10-10, 3.72 ERA) vs. Nationals RH Tanner Roark (11-9, 4.48)
Nola was shelled for the third time in four outings on Saturday, allowing six runs and 10 hits in five innings of a 10-9 loss at Miami. The 24-year-old surrendered two homers for the second time in three trips to the mound and has permitted 19 runs and 31 hits en route to dropping three of his last four starts. Nola won his lone decision in two turns versus Washington this season but is 1-3 with a 4.85 ERA in eight career outings against the Nationals.
Roark recorded a quality start for the seventh time in nine outings on Friday after allowing one run while striking out 10 in a hard-luck 1-0 loss to Milwaukee. The 30-year-old has faced the Phillies on three occasions but has yet to record a decision despite limiting the club to a .194 batting average. Roark owns a 5-5 record and 3.47 ERA in 15 career games versus Philadelphia.
1. Washington 3B Anthony Rendon is 5-for-12 with one homer and five RBIs in his last three contests.
2. Philadelphia 2B Cesar Hernandez is 8-for-21 with three RBIs and four runs scored during his five-game hitting streak.
3. Nationals RF Jayson Werth, who is a former Phillie, is mired in an 0-for-20 slump over his last six contests.
PREDICTION: Nationals 7, Phillies 2