Series #29 Preview: Nats at Phillies

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The Washington
Nationals (46-42) have one four games in a row and just completed a sweep of
the San Diego Padres. The Nats have not swept a team since the Great Depression
(alright it was actually the White Sox in April, but it has seem like since the
Great Depression) and the offense is starting to roll. Everyone was thinking
that Bryce Harper was going to be the spark to ignite the offense, but it
appears that it might be Wilson Ramos because since his return on America’s
birthday the Nats have not lost. Here is hoping that he can feign off injury
for the rest of the season.

For their second
to last series before the All-Star Game, the Nats will take on the Phillies
(43-46), who are trying to stay competitive with the Braves and Nationals in
the NL East. The Phillies did the Nats a favor and took two out of three from
the Braves over the weekend and now the Nats are only four games back with
seven games to play before the break. Hopefully, the Marlins and Reds can
batter the Braves and the Nationals can pick up even more ground in the
standings.

The season series
is currently tied between the two teams at three games apiece. The Phillies are
5-5 in their last ten games with their last game being a win against the
Braves. The Nats are 7-3 in the same span and their bats are starting to heat
up with their last loss coming on July 3.

On the injury
front, Ross Detwiler was placed on the disabled list with back tightness and
will miss his next start. Dan Haren will be taking his place in the rotation
and Taylor Jordan will continue to stay with the big club until Detwiler comes
back. Danny Espinosa is still trying to get back in the groove in AAA Syracuse,
but since his strikeout rate is worse down there than it was in Washington, it
is unlikely that he will unseat Anthony Rendon anytime soon. 

Game 1: Monday, July
8, Citizens Bank Park 7:05pm, Dan Haren (4-6, 6.15 ERA) vs. John Lannan (1-3,
5.15 ERA)

Do you remember
what happened last season after Ryan Zimmerman got a cortisone shot? Well, he
was one of the best players on the team from July onward, so hopefully the same
result happens to Dan Haren. Haren is making his first start since being placed
on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation. Haren took several days off to
rest and received a cortisone shot and has reportedly been pitching much better
in bullpen sessions since then. He went down with an injury last season with
the Angels and came back lights out. So, I could bring up how awful Haren has
been in his last starts, but since he is full of the miracle drug cortisone, I
am going to start fresh and believe he is the $13 million man that the
Nationals thought they signed and hope he brings it to John Lannan and the
Phillies.

Haren has started
six games against the Phillies where he has amassed a 0-3 record and 5.82 ERA. He
has faced the Phillies twice this season and things have not gone well. Haren
has given up seven runs off of 11 hits over the course of 12 innings. Haren did
not get a decision in either appearance against the Phillies, but in the end
the Nationals last both games. Ryan Howard, Domonic Brown and Erik Kratz all
have homers off of Haren, but thankfully both Howard and Kratz are on the DL,
so all he has to do is keep the ball away from Brown. However, since pitchers
have been trying to keep the ball away from Brown all season and he has been
straight-up raking it is easier said than done.

I still find it
difficult to say anything bad about John Lannan. I feel like we were brothers
in arms during the darks years of Nationals baseball and we still have night
terrors based on our experiences. Since returning from the disabled list after
missing two months with a strained quadriceps he has been inconsistent. In four
starts since his return to the rotation he has gone 1-2. In his last outing he
allowed four runs, 11 hits and three walks against the Pirates. He throws four
pitches: fastball (88-90 mph), curveball (72-74 mph), slider (80-82 mph) and
changeup (83-85 mph). Lannan likes to throw his slider on 0-2 counts and tends
to not throw his changeup to left handed batters. He keeps the ball low in the
zone and no matter what the situation he tends to be very methodical in his
delivery, rarely getting rattled.

In his only start
against the Nationals during his career on June 17, he allowed two runs on six
hits over five innings. Lannan did not get the decision, but the Phillies ended
up winning the game 5-4. Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche are the only two Nationals
players who have more than three plate appearances against Lannan and have
fared very differently against him. In 31 appearances Werth is hitting .333
against him and has an OPS of 1.271, which is diabolical to say the least.
LaRoche has flat lined against Lannan going 0-12 with five strikeouts. 

Game 2: Tuesday,
July 9, Citizens Bank Park 7:05pm, Taylor Jordan (0-1, 2.70 ERA) vs. Cole
Hamels (3-11, 4.38 ERA)

Taylor Jordan is
still looking for his first Major League win, but he has shown improvement from
his first start, which was a little shaky. Jordan was all set up for the win on
the Fourth of July, but Drew Storen came in and made an almost guaranteed
victory a close contest, which led to Jordan not receiving his well-earned
victory. Taylor pitched 5 2/3 innings and only surrendered two earned runs off
of six hits, which is pretty respectable for a guy that was not even on the
Nationals radar until he started blowing up this season between A and AA.

Prior to being
called up Jordan had a cumulative ERA of 1.000 between his time at Potomac and
Harrisburg. Minor league batters could not find a way to hit this kid. When
batters put a bat on the ball it was normally a grounder to the infield.
Jordan’s success has come from being able to pepper the strike zone. More and
more, he is being compared with Jered Weaver because of his good velocity, his
above average off-speed pitches and his impeccable command this year.

Jordan throws
three pitches: fastball (92-94 mph), slider (82-84 mph) and changeup (81-83
mph). His fastball is his most dominant pitch. It has a heavy sink to it and he
keeps is low in the strike zone. His best secondary pitch is his changeup,
which he has spent years developing. It has a good fade and acts like a
splitter much of the time. All of his pitches draw weak contract and a lot of
swing through.

Since this will
be Jordan’s third career start, he has never faced a member of the Phillies
lineup.

Cole Hamels has
not been very good this season, as anyone can tell by his record, but he showed
signs of life in his last start against the Pirates. Hamels pitched seven
innings where he only gave up one run, while striking out eight. The Phils were
worried about his, so they gave him some extra rest prior to the start and it
appears to have paid off for him because 76 of his 103 pitches were for
strikes.

Hamels throws four
pitches: fastball (89-93 mph), curveball (75-77 mph), cutter (88-90 mph) and
changeup (81-83). His changeup is one of the best in the game. He uses it as
his strikeout pitch and batters will regularly chase it when it is well outside
the strike zone. He developed it in high school when he could not throw his
curveball for several months due to arm issues.

He has a 13-6
record against the Nationals over the course of his career where he was a 2.64
ERA. Hamels averages 9.5 strikeouts over nine innings against the Nats. Last
season he was particularly devastating when playing against the Nationals
because his ERA was a bewildering 1.94. In his only start against the Nats this
season, Hamels came away with a loss after he allowed five runs off of six hits
over the course of 6 1/3 IP. The only two players who have done well against
him are Bryce Harper and Adam LaRoche. Harper has a .444 OBP in 18 plate
appearances and LaRoche has an OPS of 1.152 in 30 plate appearances, where he
has also went yard four times.

Game 3: Wednesday,
July 10, Citizens Bank Park 7:05pm, Gio Gonzalez (6-3, 3.14 ERA) vs. Cliff Lee
(10-2, 2.73 ERA)

Gio is finally
getting some run support to accompany his stellar pitching and the Nats have
won the last three times he has taken the mound. In his last start against the
Padres he allowed three runs off of eight hits, while striking out five and
only giving up one walk.

In one start
against the Phils this season Gio did not pick up the decision, but the Nats
ended up winning the game 6-2 back in June. Gonzalez went seven strong innings and
only gave up two earned runs, while striking out 11 batters. Gonzalez has
started against the Phillies five times in his career, where he has a 3-1
record and 2.53 ERA over 32 IP, He has averaged 11.3 SO/9 and only given up two
home runs to them. Jimmy Rollins has done well against Gio in the past amassing
a .333 BA in 12 plate appearances. However, John Mayberry has only two hits off
him in 12 plate appearances, which has amounted to him only getting on base a
quarter of the time.

Since Cliff Lee
last faced off against the Nationals three weeks ago he has not recorded a
loss. In fact, he has not been credited with a loss since May 1 and has only
pitched less than seven full innings once, so yeah, he is still really, really
good. He is so good that the Phillies might want to think about trading him if
they do not think they cannot compete with their aging roster in the NL East.
The Braves and Nationals are both young teams and they appear to have their
rosters pretty well cemented in place for the next couple years, so the
Phillies could make some serious headway by trading Lee to a contender for
several minor league players that could help bolster their ball club in the
years to come. 

Lee throws five
pitches: fastball (90-92 mph), curveball (74-76 mph), slider (80-82 mph),
changeup (83-85) and cutter (86-88 mph). He truly mixes up his pitches and is
not afraid to throw any to any batter in any count. He throws his first pitch
for a strike 72 percent of the time, so veteran like Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson
Werth who like to take the first pitch might want to take Davey Johnson’s
advice and get more aggressive at the plate early in their at bats.  

Cliff Lee has one
start against the Nationals this season, where he went eight innings and only
gave up two runs. The two runs were homers, so even though the Nats lost, at
least they beat him up a little bit. He has a 6-3 record against the Nationals
over the course of his career where he was a 2.48 ERA. Lee averages 9.1 strikeouts
over nine innings against the. The only two players who have done well against
him are Kurt Suzuki and Denard Span. Suzuki, who has received a much needed
rest since Wilson Ramos has returned to the lineup, has a .350 BA against Lee
in 22 plate appearances. Denard Span has a .292 BA and .346 OBP.

Game 4: Thursday,
July 11, Citizens Bank Park 7:05pm, Jordan Zimmermann (12-3, 2.57 ERA) vs. Kyle
Kendrick (7-6, 3.90 ERA)

Jordan Zimmermann
tried to pick up his career-best thirteenth win of the season in his last
outing, but came up a bit short against the Padres. He did not look like his
usual self. He is not known for wasting pitches. The guy heads to the mounds
puts batters down and quickly walks back to the dugout in less time than it
takes most people to get a beer from the concession stand. It usually takes him
seven or eight innings to get to a pitch count that is in the triple digits,
but in his last outing he threw 101 pitches over the course of 5 1/3 innings, where
he gave up three runs off of five hits, while striking out four.

Personally, I
would consider that outing an anomaly as opposed to a preview of what he will
do for the rest of the season. He was just named an All-Star and s tied for the
most wins in the National League at 12. He is fourth in innings pitched at 126
and the Nats are 15-3 when he starts. People is DC know what he has been doing
all season and over the past couple years and after the All-Star Game the rest
of the country will too.

Zimmermann has
already squared off against the Phillies once this season in a game that the
people of Philadelphia would probably like to forget. Zimmermann went seven
innings and only gave up two earned runs off of six hits that the Nats ended up
winning 8-2. Jordan had trouble with the Phils in the past. He has a record of
2-4 in seven starts and a 4.62 ERA, which we all know is very high for him. His
WHIP is also much higher than we expect out of him and it is sitting at 1.513. Chase
Utley has pretty much owned Zimmermann in the past. Utley has a 1.500 OPS and
has walked four times against him, so watch for Jordan to be looking for a
little payback to close out the series.

Kyle Kendrick was
shellacked against the Braves in his last outing. Shellacked is probably
putting it too lightly. Kendrick was taken out behind the wood shed and left
for dead in his last start. He allowed a career-worst 15 hits over five innings
(even Dan Haren does not do that). He has given up 10 runs on 22 hits in his
last two starts, so ot could be an offensive bloodbath for the Nats in this
game.

He throws three
pitches: fastball (89-91 mph), split-finger (78-80 mph) and cutter (86-88 mph).
He is very vulnerable to left-handed batters, who over his career have put up a
.287/3.56/.479 slash line. His whiff rate of only 12 percent is much lower than
the MLB average of approximately 18 percent.

Kendrick has
taken the hill for the Phillies twice this season against the Nationals and has
yet to record a win. In his last outing he took a no decision after going 7 2/3
and only giving up one run. However, the Phillies bullpen blew the game for him
and the Nationals won 6-2. He has started 19 games against the Nats in his
career and come away with a 4-6 record and a 4.63 ERA. Harper, Tracy, Ramos and
Desmond are all sporting an OPS over 1.000 against Kendrick. Harper has been
particularly devastating when stepping in against Kendrick. In 17 plate
appearances Harper has three doubles, a home run and three RBIs. His OPS is
sitting at 1.517, which pretty much means that God himself would not bet on
Harper putting up a goose egg in the hits column during this game.


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