Despite sporting the worst record in the majors, the Philadelphia Phillies have refused to make life easy for the Washington Nationals just about every time they have met this season. Even so, the host Nationals could become the first team in the majors to guarantee themselves a postseason berth if things break their way Sunday, when they meet the Phillies for the finale of their four-game series.
Odubel Herrera went 0-for-4 to end the longest hitting streak in the majors this season, but Rhys Hoskins hit his 14th homer in his first 30 career games as Philadelphia (54-88) edged the Nationals 5-4 on Saturday. The Phillies improved to 6-9 against Washington in the season series and have played the National League East leaders within one run nine times - including each of the last five meetings - and within two on four other occasions. Washington lost for the first time in six contests but still maintained its 19-game lead over Miami in the division and managed to reduce its magic number for clinching the East to two with 20 games to play, however, as the Marlins fell in Atlanta. Michael Taylor continued to swing a hot bat for the Nationals by going 2-for-3 with a homer and three RBIs in the loss and is 9-for-15 with three blasts, nine RBIs and five runs scored over his last four contests.
TV: 1:35 p.m. ET, CSN Philadelphia, MASN (Washington)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Phillies RH Ben Lively (3-5, 3.92 ERA) vs. Nationals RH Stephen Strasburg (12-4, 2.78)
Lively homered and finished with four RBIs to give himself more than enough run support in Tuesday’s 9-1 rout of the New York Mets, complementing his hitting with seven innings of one-run ball for his second straight victory. The 25-year-old rookie has yielded two earned runs or fewer in five of his last six turns in part due to his ability to keep the ball inside the park in those outings. Lively is 2-3 with a 3.43 ERA in seven road starts as he faces the Nationals for the first time.
Strasburg blanked the Marlins over six frames in a win Tuesday at Miami, allowing six hits and fanning eight to run his consecutive-inning scoreless streak to a club-record 26 frames. The three-time All-Star boasts a 44:7 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 36 innings since the Midsummer Classic, going 3-1 with a 0.75 ERA in six outings over that span. Strasburg is 1-0 with a 2.29 ERA in three starts versus the Phillies in 2017 and 9-2 with a 2.36 ERA in 20 career turns against Philadelphia.
1. A win by the Nationals and a loss by the Marlins on Sunday in Atlanta will clinch at least a share of a second straight division title for Washington.
2. Philadelphia 2B Cesar Hernandez went 3-for-6 on Saturday to extend his on-base streak to 20 games.
3. Washington manager Dusty Baker announced OF Jayson Werth would not return to the lineup until at least Tuesday due to a shoulder injury.
PREDICTION: Nationals 5, Phillies 1