Phillies vs. Nationals series preview: Searching for answers that aren’t there

Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire

The first of a string of series against divisional opponents did not go well for the Philadelphia Phillies 39-32, 2nd in NL East). Now the Phillies try to not fall behind further in the National League East standings, not only because of the Atlanta Braves winning surge, but the all important division games for the next few weeks. Next up, a trip to D.C.

Pitching Match-ups and Start Times

Monday 6/17, 7:05 p.m.: Jake Arrieta (+130) vs. Patrick Corbin (-140)
Tuesday 6/18, 7:05 p.m.: Zach Eflin vs. Erick Fedde
Wednesday 6/19, 7:05 p.m.: Nick Pivetta vs. Max Scherzer
Thursday 6/20, 7:05 p.m.: Aaron Nola vs. Stephen Strasburg

When facing top competition, flaws can be exposed for everyone to see. While the Phils may have been able to climb to first in the NL East and get off to a good start, there have been a few examples of exposure against better teams. First, the Dodgers were able to thrash the Phillies and this time it was the Braves turn to do so.

Now it’s would not be entirely fair to the Phillies if I didn’t mention that they had a very good chance to take the series. The Phillies had a two-run lead in the first game of the series going into the ninth inning and gave the closing duties to Hector Neris, who had not blown a save at that time. It’s a situation the Phillies have won in this season and proved that the next night when Neris made quick work of the Braves in the ninth inning. So, yes, the Phillies were in a great position to win this series.

However, despite that, the Phillies bullpen and starting pitching depth were exposed and ultimately led to the series defeat in Atlanta. Frustration came to light when fans witnessed the rest of the bullpen falter and a Vince Velasquez, Cole Irvin and Jerad Eickhoff outing resulted in a 15-1 loss. When frustration boils over, blame starts to be pointed at those who don’t deserve it. As in most cases, the blame was put on Phillies manager Gabe Kapler.

I just want to make sure all of you know how ridiculous that is. What can Kapler really do that would’ve changed this series? Should he have not pitched Neris in the ninth inning on Friday? Instead of Jose Alvarez, should he have used Edgar Garcia? Should he have started Cole Irvin over Vince Velasquez on Sunday? I’m not sure I understand how you can look at those scenarios and think that Kapler is to blame.

In reality, the Phillies knew that there were issues with starting pitching depth and decided not to do anything about it. As for the bullpen, injuries have left a massive hole in the pen and if it can’t get healthy soon, then the Phillies will need to patch that up as well.

This isn’t an issue Kapler can fix. This is a problem for Matt Klentak to figure out.

What to Watch For

Scoring just one run on Sunday, there are some things to watch for when it comes to the Phillies lineup. Especially when Kapler and the Phils are still trying to find the best constructed lineup without leadoff hitter Andrew McCutchen. But it all doesn’t matter if the Phillies continue to allow opponents to post high run totals.

What you need to watch for here is the response and grit the Phillies can show while waiting for help to arrive. These games against the NL East are important. The Phils have already lost the division lead and can’t afford to drop in the standings. The Braves are making a push to pull away and the Phillies need to find a way to not fall further behind.

To the Phillies credit, they have been able to consistently win series against below-average teams. The Washington Nationals are a below average. If the Phillies can win series against the Mets, Marlins and Nationals, then waiting for help at the trade deadline is no big deal. Those additions will be more to help in September and October, but not right now.

Prop Bets (from Monkey Knife Fight)

Game 1:
Patrick Corbin – o/u 6.5 strikeouts – The last time Corbin was over 6.5 strikeouts was May 10th. UNDER
Jake Arrieta – o/u 4.5 strikeouts – This seems like a low number to due recent performances, but more often than not, Arrieta is over 4.5 strikeouts. Over
Total – o/u 10 – Both Arrieta and Corbin have had their moments this season, but with bullpen issues on both sides it’s tough to bet the under in any game this series. OVER

DFS Play: Scott Kingery

Kingery has punished left-handed starting pitchers this season. He has a 1.222 OPS when there is a left-handed starting pitcher.

Other Notes

It’s obvious, especially after the Braves series, that the Phillies need pitching help. As we get closer to July, rumors have already begun to start pertaining who may be available this summer. Here are a list of names that have been included in some kind of trade rumor already.

Madison Bumgarner, SP, San Francisco Giants

Trevor Bauer, SP, Cleveland Indians

Zack Wheeler, SP, New York Mets

Matthew Boyd, SP, Detroit Tigers

Shane Greene, RP, Detroit Tigers

Mike Leake, SP, Seattle Mariners

Who do you think the Phillies should/can trade for?

There of course will be more rumors that will surface in the coming weeks and we’ll be sure to keep you updated on the latest names that become available!

You can follow Jon Jansen on Twitter (@jjansen34) and e-mail him at

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