Bryce Harper hasn’t played in close to a month, but the recent contributions of another outfielder for the Washington Nationals has the National League East leaders on the verge of clinching a second consecutive division title. Michael Taylor attempts to follow up the best performance of his career on Saturday as the Nationals play the third contest of their four-game home series against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Washington lowered its magic number for clinching the East to three with Friday’s wild 11-10 win as Taylor went 4-for-5 with five RBIs, including a third-inning inside-the-park grand slam and an eighth-inning RBI triple while finishing a double shy of the cycle. The Nationals maintained their 19-game division lead over Miami with their fifth straight victory and the 26-year-old Taylor has played a huge part in the surge, going 7-for-12 with two homers, a triple, a double and four runs scored in his last three games. The major league-worst Phillies (53-88) became the first team to be mathematically eliminated from postseason contention with the setback and moved within three losses of matching their total from last season. Despite only winning five of the 14 meetings this year, Philadelphia has given Washington its fair share of trouble, playing eight one-run games and four two-run contests.
TV: 7:05 p.m. ET, CSN Philadelphia, MASN (Washington)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Phillies RH Mark Leiter Jr. (2-5, 4.74 ERA) vs. Nationals RH Edwin Jackson (5-4, 3.62)
Leiter endured the worst outing of his brief major-league career Monday against the New York Mets, taking the loss on the road after giving up nine runs - eight earned - and nine hits over 3 1/3 innings. The 26-year-old Floridian, who is 1-3 with a 7.53 ERA in 14 road appearances (four starts), had been solid over his first six turns of the season, posting a 3.34 ERA. Leiter held the Nationals in check over two scoreless relief innings on May 6, when he yielded one hit and two walks.
Jackson saw his streak of four straight quality starts snapped in a loss at Milwaukee on Sunday after he permitted five runs - four earned - and five hits in 5 2/3 frames. The outing removed some of the luster from the 33-year-old’s strong run in his second tenure with the club as he fell to 5-4 with a 3.29 ERA in nine turns with Washington this year. Jackson is 3-1 with a 2.63 ERA at Nationals Park in 2017 but only 2-6 with a 6.00 ERA in nine career appearances (seven starts) against the Phillies.
1. Washington SS Trea Turner is 6-for-12 with a homer, five RBIs and four runs scored over his last three contests.
2. Philadelphia OF Odubel Herrera singled in the seventh inning on Friday to extend his hitting streak to 21 games - the longest in the majors this season.
3. Each of the last four meetings between the teams has been decided by one run.
PREDICTION: Nationals 6, Phillies 5