Tag Archives: Phillies

The Philadelphia Phillies are arguably the Washington Nationals biggest rival and the perennial NL East champion.

citizens-bank-park

2015 Nats vs. Phillies Q&A and prediction with Kevin McGuire of Macho Row

The Washington Nationals dropped their first series of the year to the New York Mets at Nationals Park. Opening Day saw two Ian Desmond errors lead to 3 runs as Max Scherzer‘s strong debut and Bryce Harper’s home run being wasted. In the second game, the Nats won on the backs of the Zimmermen — Ryan Zimmerman hit a two-run homer and Jordan Zimmermann gave up only a run. On Thursday, DE6MOND struck again with another costly 2-out error costing the Nats 2 runs. Stephen Strasburg couldn’t overcome that or the damp, cold weather in a 6-3 loss to Matt Harvey. Three runs off the Mets bullpen made it feel closer than it was.

Moving on and to the city of brotherly love (based on what I heard on radio, by bus – perhaps deserved after this poor performance) the Nats look to right the ship against the Philadelphia Phillies who have (Southeast) Jerome Williams on the mound Friday night.

Really.

Helping us prepare for the Phillies series is another decorated guest prognosticator, Kevin McGuire of Macho Row and College Football Talk. This is the fifth time for him with the Phillies . He’s also talked about the Eagles when I was doing this feature in football season. That could come back someday, but we’ll see.

WFY: Let’s not waste any time – why does GM Ruben Amaro still have a job?

KMc: It is my belief the Phillies are a family-oriented type of franchise. Sometimes they have a hard time parting ways with their own kind, and Amaro has been a part of the Phillies franchise in one way or another for decades before becoming a part of the front office. He played here. His dad played here. They like Amaro and want to give him time to fix things. It is a fault of the franchise that probably held on to Ed Wade for a few years longer than they should have. But the pressure is starting to rise and there needs to be some sort of plan in motion seen this year, I think.

WFY: The Phillies contending days are a distant memory, their two pennants and second world championship even farther. Does getting to watch some fan favorites like Ryan Howard and Chase Utley from the Phillies mini epoch make the decline a little easier to handle than watching a bunch of no-names losing 90 games a year? Not that we have any concerns about that in the nation’s capital where we don’t have all that hardware yet…

KMc: It depends. Chase Utley is treated like a god here. Ryan Howard, not so much. People have long been wanting to ship Howard out of town, so there is no solace there by the general fan. Years from now though, when those players are gone and we have more time to reflect on just how good things were here for that stretch, they will all be welcomed back like heroes, even Howard.

WFY: How did the Phillies look in their first series, against the Boston Red Sox? How did the Sox look; the Nats play them next week? Why does it seem like the Phillies always open with interleague?

KMc: The Phillies were routed in the season opener, 8-0. Cole Hamels gave up four solo home runs and reliever Jake Diekmann served up a grand slam to Hanley Ramirez in the ninth inning. Hamels was not sharp, but look at his career numbers in his season debut and it was really par for the course (he’ll be fine, he always has a rough season debut though for whatever reason). The offense was non-existent, and that figures to be the story of the season in Philadelphia. The top of the order failed to get a hit (Utley reached on an error), and there is not a real threat anywhere in the lineup. The Red Sox are going to mash some hits and score some runs this season. It can be a dangerous lineup, and if they can add another good starter in the rotation they should contend (Hamels trade talks are still out there).

This is the second season of season-long interleague play (which I am no fan of, by the way), and for the second straight year the Phillies opened against an AL team. Last year they opened in Texas and had their home opener against the Royals. This year Boston was in town. I’m not sure if there is anything to it, or if it is just a coincidence.

WFY: Who is left to pitch for the Phillies with Roy Halladay retired and Cliff Lee out indefinitely?

KMc: After Hamels, the Phillies will go with free agent pick-up Aaron Harang for however long he may last. David Buchanan me his major league debut last season and remains not he roster. Right now he is the third pitcher in the rotation. He is followed by Jerome Williams, who wears a pink glove and was added through waivers last season. If Cliff Lee returns this year (I doubt he will), he’ll complete the five-man rotation. But of Lee does not come back, I’m not really sure where this team goes for a fifth starter (Kyle Kendrick is now with the Rockies). The hope is Chad Billingsley is healthy enough to join the rotation soon. He was signed on a one-year deal with a injury history, so the Phillies are crossing their fingers on this one.

WFY: Dominic Brown was seen as a promising prospect for a few years – how is he doing now?

KMc: Well, right now he is on the disabled list to start the season. And you are right, he was once seen as a promising prospect, but so far he has yet to really show why on a consistent enough basis. Brown has been poor in the outfield and his offense is not quite what it was supposed to be at this point in his development and career. Brown is the one prospect Amaro held on to while moving players and prospects over the years, which does not help the situation either. After making his big league debut five years ago and getting a full-time role four years ago, the Phillies needed more out of him by now.

WFY: Do the Phillies have any other prospects starting to come up to the majors?

KMc: There are a few down the line worth watching. Shortstop J.P. Crawford is projected to be the next franchise shortstop once he is ready, but he was only in single A ball last year so he is still a couple years away. Last year’s top draft pick was on pitcher Aaron Nola out of LSU. He was placed right into double A and could be seen this summer, especially if things are unstable in the rotation. The other player that could be seen is Maikel Franco, who plays third and first base. The Phillies will likely end up using him at first base with Cody Asche covering third base. Of course, Ryan Howard is still at first…

WFY: How is Ryne Sandberg doing as a manager?

KMc: I am honestly not really sure. I almost feel inclined to give him a pass to a certain degree given what he has to work with in the clubhouse, but we are now 1.5 seasons in with Sandberg as manager and there are some things that were supposed to be fixed that have not played out as advertised. Fundamentals is still an issue with some, and that was supposed to be the big difference with Ryne as manager. We’ll see what happens this season. There is no doubt he knows his baseball, but there needs to be some positive development on the field this season.

WFY: Given the Phillies decline, was their season series victory over the Nats last year any more satisfying? I owe somebody a half-smoke. What is the perception of the Nats from the Phillies fanbase?

KMc: I’m not sure how much satisfaction most Phillies fans took in anything that happened last season, including a season-series victory over the Nationals. But hey, I’ll take it I guess. I think most Phillies fans recognize the Nationals as the top threat in the division right now, and perhaps that is starting to add some fuel to a regional rivalry, but that won’t really take form up here until the Phillies have something to play for. The Jayson Werth stuff is getting old at this point, I think at least, but there is always Bryce Harper. I think he is perceived as a punk, but he’s a punk we’d all love to have on our team.

WFY: How is the local/regional beer selection at Citizens Bank Park?

KMc: When it comes to this topic I like to defer to Lee Porter, a local food blogger who does a masterful job mapping out the beer selections throughout Citizens Bank Park on his website. One thing he has already noticed for this season is there will be more mega cans of the more common beers available this season, which may or may not be a reason why some of the previously offered local brews have been cut from the menu. There is still a good selection of local breweries in the stadium, so it may not be a big deal for most, and there are some new options available.

One thing that should also be noted for some higher brow readers, the Phillies have a new deal in place with Chadds Ford Winery and now serve various wine selections in the stadium. Mixed drinks are also more available at certain locations as well. Some are going to need it.

WFY: Is that sign still blocking the skyline in center field? Have their been any significant upgrades to the ballpark since I went there 10 years ago?

KMc: I have good news for you! After a decade of that darn useless sign obstructing your view of Center City, the Phillies are kinda sorta making it less of a distraction. While the sign is still in the parking lot, the height of the sign has been reduced, reportedly going from 157 feet high to 115 feet. It is supposed to be used for its initial purpose of being a message board as well. I’ll have to go to a game though to see just how much of a difference this has made. I’ll be there Sunday for the Phillies-Nationals afternoon game. I’ll report back if you are interested.

WFY: Since it’s 2015, who is the best #15 in Phillies history?

KMc: This one is easy. Dick Allen, who wore the uniform number from the dreadful season of 1964 through 1969, and again in 1975 when he returned to the team. The number was also worn by guys like Rick Schu, Steve Jeltz and Dave Hollins and was most recently worn by John Mayberry Jr. Simply said, there is no competition here for Dick Allen, who should probably be in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

WFY: How do you see this series shaping up? What about the Nats-Phillies season series?

KMc: I expect many disappointing series from the Phillies this season, including this weekend at home against the NL East favorite Nationals. I think the Nationals are going to be very good this season (we’ll see what happens in the postseason), and I think they have a relatively easy time taking the season series from the Phillies this summer. Cole Hamels will be back on the mound so I think the Phillies can take one game in the set, but it will not come easily. It should be a beautiful weekend for baseball in Philadelphia though.

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2014 Washington Nationals vs. Philadelphia Phillies Q&A and prediction with Kevin McGuire

One of the most prolific guest prognosticators is back to talk about the Washington Nationals at Philadelphia Phillies series. Kevin McGuire, blogs about the Phillies at Macho Row, but is best known for writing for College Football Talk.

WFY: Looking at the standings, the supposed worn-out and elderly Phillies are 13-13. How did the get there?

KMc:The Phillies have been incredible up and down, a team consistently inconsistent. It has been difficult to figure out the offense at times, but we do know that it has a number of holes at key positions. The top of the starting rotation has been fine and just welcomed back Cole Hamels but the bullpen has been going through some growing pains holding on to leads as well. It seems when the pitching is doing well, the offense cannot score runs and when the offense bursts out, the pitching cannot hold the fort down.

WFY: On Wednesday night’s radio broadcast of the Nats game, Charlie Slowes mentioned that the Phillies were essentially going with a three man rotation right now due to days off. Is this accurate? I see Cliff Lee, A.J. Burnett and Cole Hamels are the probable starters for the series, while the Nats still have not announced theirs. We know Jordan Zimmermann won’t pitch, though Gio Gonzalez could on Sunday. The Nats rotation is all messed up right now.

KMc:The Phillies are skipping Kyle Kendricks spot in the rotation this weekend to go with the top three pitchers this weekend. Cliff Lee has had two rough outing but has been brilliant at other times. AJ Burnett has been a solid addition to the rotation and Cole Hamels will get his third start of the season after a rough night against the Mets this week. This is a fundamental change in philosophy that comes with Ryne Sandberg and his staff compared to past years under Charlie Manuel. Sandberg is taking a bit more of an aggressive approach by adjusting the rotation so early in the yer but that is because he likely sees the importance of winning division games now instead of trying to catch up at the end of the season. If the Phillies are going to stay afloat and in the conversation, winning games against division opponents is the way to go.

WFY: What have the Phillies strengths been thus far? How good can the 2014 Phillies be?

KMc:I think the offense, as a whole, has been pretty decent this season. Chase Utley has been the clear MVP but I feel as though I have seen better at-bats from Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard early on by showing more patience. The Phillies lack strength though and have to rely on moving base runners, which has been a problem at times.

WFY: What’s going on with Dominic Brown?

KMc:He is off to a slow start and has been lacking the power we saw at times last season. At this point in his career Brown has not been living up to the hype but if I recall he was actually off to a slow start last season as well before busting out to become an All-Star candidate. He seems to have all of the physical attributes to be a really good corner outfielder in the middle of the line-up, but he needs to cut down on the strikeout-walk ratio to provide better protection behind Howard.

WFY: Who is the Phillies best player, face of the franchise, people’s champion right now?

KMc:Best player? Chase Utley. Face of the franchise? Chase Utley. People’s champion? Chase Utley.

Philadelphia loves Chase Utley and the way he plays the game. His way of preparing for a game is also something fans can get behind. He never appears to take a play off, and Philly fans love a player who hustles. I have always been more of a Jimmy Rollins fan but Utley is without a doubt the player most fans would consider the face of the franchise right now.

WFY: Is GM Ruben Amaro’s job in jeopardy or is that just WIP caller’s wishful thinking?

KMc:The pressure is on Ruben Amaro, that is not just hot sports take radio at work, but I honestly do not see the Phillies making a change at the position even if this season results another season without a playoff game. The reason I suggest that is because the Phillies have long been a Phillies family-oriented organization, and Amaro is as much a part of that family now than anyone. Firing one of their own is not a decision the Phillies do quickly (Ed Wade was general manager for eight years, Amaro is in year six). Bad contracts (notably Ryan Howard, Jonathan Paplebon) have restricted some of what the Phillies can do, and that falls on Amaro, who has acquired Cliff Lee twice and may have to be put in a position to trade him once more if things go south.

WFY: How are the new Phillies broadcasters working out?

KMc:Just so everybody understands, Comcast has more say in the Phillies broadcast teams now that they signed a new rights deal last year. That meant broadcasters handpicked by the Phillies before were no longer safe. That led to the removal of longtime Phillies broadcaster Chris Wheeler and former player Gary “Sarge” Matthews. The Phillies kept Tom McCarthy as the TV play-by-play voice and Comcast added former Phillies Jamie Moyer and Matt Stairs in the booth. So far the new team seems to work well, although there are still some rough spots that are being worked out for the broadcasting rookies. Moyer and Stairs each bring a unique approach to the broadcast and nobody in the booth seems to want to fill all of the open air. McCarthy gets a bad reputation by some but I honestly feel he is doing just fine with his new partners. Moyer and Stairs split the games for the most part but sometimes are both in the booth.

KMc:I have not had a chance to really digest the Sunday home broadcasts, when Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt joins the broadcast as well for Sundays with Schmidt.

WFY: What’s the best book about Philadelphia baseball you have read?

KMc:The 2008 season brought a number of books to my collection, as you might expect, but the The Rotation co-written by longtime beat reporter Jim Salisbury and the well-respected Todd Zolecki may be my favorite. The book focuses on how the Phillies put together the starting rotation in 2010 that included Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and that other guy (Joe Blanton).

WFY: Who takes this series and the season season? How do you think the NL East shakes out?

KMc:I actually feel pretty good about the chances the Phillies have this weekend, but I would still lean on a healthy Nationals team to take the season series by a slight margin. My thought about the division remain the same though, and that is the team to beat plays in Atlanta. I think the Mets and Marlins will be pesky for everyone, but I think the division goes Braves, Nationals, Phillies, Mets and then the Marlins, who have two of the best players in the division by the way (Jose Fernandez and Giancarlo Stanton).

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Nats show that lost seasons still have great memories

Not every baseball season is great, but greatness appears in every baseball season.

Following a sweep by the NL East division leading Atlanta Braves, the Washington Nationals could no longer deny that the 2013 season had gotten away from them. Nonetheless, this weekend’s series with the Philadelphia Phillies showed that even in underachieving seasons, there are joyful times. For the first time in a long-time, the Nats were exciting and seemed to be having a good time.

SUNDAY

WASHINGTON 6 Philadelphia 0

Stephen Strasburg has been having an “off year” going into Sunday’s game with a 3.01 ERA and a 5-9 record more indicative of his run support than his performance. That being said, it was not as dominant as his first seasons. Sunday evening, he had one of his finest performances and his first complete game and shutout.

Strasburg threw 99 pitches for 10 strikeouts was his first “Maddux” – a complete game shutout with less than 100 pitches. He pitched with a groin bothering him:

Head trainer Lee Kuntz and pitching coach Steve McCatty emerged from the dugout and walked to the mound with Johnson close behind. Strasburg told Johnson his groin didn’t affect him when he flew open during his delivery. He remained in the game. And after walking Brown, he pitched as if nothing at all had bothered him.

The groin tweak “just helped me kind of take a step back and just go nice and easy and stay on line as long as I can,” Strasburg said

Nationals vs. Phillies: Stephen Strasburg throws first complete game as Washington completes sweepThe Post.

Did he just learn something yesterday?

SATURDAY

WASHINGTON 8 Philadelphia 5

Tanner Roark, acquired for Cristian Guzman in 2010 won his first game with a 2 inning, 12 pitch performance in relief.

Jayson Werth was the bigger story though, with a 3-hit performance — hits 998, 999 and 1,000th a home run to take a lead the Nats would not relinquish.

FRIDAY

WASHINGTON 9 Philadelphia 2

Friday night’s game was a laugher with Dan Haren continuing his second half resurgence, going 7 innings and only giving up 2 runs for the third consecutive start.

Hard Times Cafe is on the hook for free wings (with an additional purchase) for each game of the series since the Nats scored 6 or more runs. In theory, they’ve stockpiled them and are pretty happy to clean out some inventory.

I don’t know what the rest of the week, season and such holds for the 2013 Nats, but I know how much I enjoyed this weekend’s series. I also know that I get to enjoy for an extra day — no Monday game.

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Phillies Cliff Lee pounds the zone – Nats pound Cliff Lee, win 5-1

Every pitching coach says it: pound the zone! Throw strikes!

Last night, LHP Philadelphia Phillies Cliff Lee threw strikes. From Nationals pound Cliff Lee for four HRs to back Gio Gonzalez in 5-1 winThe Post

After Lee’s first 58 pitches Wednesday night, the Nationals had taken eight balls and swatted four solo home runs. By the end of the night, Lee had thrown 64 strikes in 76 pitches, the second-highest percentage of any starter since 2000.

I can remember what every coach in little league told us when we were batting – make him throw strikes. The Washington Nationals did and knew what to do about it.

Manager Davey Johnson, though, trusted a different omen: He liked the way the Nationals took batting practice. Lee pummels the inside of the strike zone, and Johnson wanted to counter Lee’s aggression with more aggression. In the late afternoon, they attacked pitches.

“There’s a big difference,” Johnson said. “Sometimes, we come into batting practice and we look like we try to hit everything to right field. Today, we were hitting it on the rooftops. We knew who was out there.”

The result:

In the fifth inning, Anthony Rendon to left field. Wilson Ramos to goes oppo boppo to right. In the sixth, Ryan Zimmerman to right center, Jayson Werth to left. Two back-to-back sequences in two innings.

Lee’s strategy was wasn’t terrible – the Nats don’t hit lefties well. Solo home runs are not the worst thing in the world — if the pitcher is resilient, they can still get out of the inning without a lot of pitches, throwing from the stretch or having to hold runners. The Nats just executed better and took advantage of the launching pad that is Citizens Bank Park.

Gio Gonzalez was strong for DC — pitching seven innings and yielding only a run, also on a solo home run. He got into trouble infrequently, but got out of it when he did. He has won his last four starts. The Nats tacked on a run off the Phillies bullpen. They also picked up a game on the Atlanta Braves, who lost yesterday afternoon. Series finale is tonight with Jordan Zimmermann opposing Kyle Kendrick.

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Checking in with the Nats, the day after they lost to John Lannan

I am not surprised the Washington Nationals were beaten by their former teammate, John Lannan. Eight innings of shutout ball on the other hand, was a bit surprising. The Nats have trouble hitting lefties and soft tossers. When Lannan’s sinker is working, he induces lots of ground balls and typically pitches about 5 2/3 innings, giving up 2 or 3 runs. Last night was rather exceptional. Lannan gets a small measure of personal revenge that he was cast aside for Dan Haren (who kept the Nats in a game for a change and Edwin Jackson last year). The biggest downside of Lannan’s dominance was that they couldn’t get to the Philadelphia Phillies bullpen. Once they faced Jonathan Papelbon, they started hitting and got two late runs.

I’ve gotten to know a Philly sports fan in the office. Yesterday morning, he was telling me he kind of hoped the Phillies wouldn’t take this series because the reign is over and he wants the rebuilding to begin in earnest and recent good play is probably going to delay it. That’s an interesting place to be as a fan, but I’ve always been of the mindset that I’d rather win. DC teams have a tendency to not play too well to mess up their draft position anyway, it least of late. I suggested that Lannan could have a good night and took a blind guess that Haren would keep the Nats in it. Also, because stereotypes are sometimes built on truth, Philly Dan (seems a good shorthand for him) did mention Donovan McNabb’s weak stomach in critical situations.

So, the 4 game winning streak ended last night the questions about where the Nats are come up again. They took the Arizona Diamondbacks series, but only split with the Milwaukee Brewers. They were some big outbursts of 8+ runs, but the team pitched to the score resulting in some 11-7 and 8-5 games. That’s just the kind of season the Nats are having. Overall, I think with a healthly lineup, they have started their run, but this Phillies series will be tough to win or even split. I may owe somebody a half-smoke again after the season.

I’m not too worked up about the All-Star game and which Nats are or might be playing in it. Bryce Harper was voted a starter and Jordan Zimmermann goes in as a pitcher. I expect Matt Harvey to start it since the New York Mets are hosting and that’s fine with me. If Zimmermann doesn’t make an appearance, that’s probably for the best. He’s not as dominate as he was earlier in the season and a little rest wouldn’t hurt.

Harper in the Home Run Derby doesn’t excite me. I’ve seen him take batting practice up close — he usually hits line drives about 200 MPH. I don’t want him messing up his swing.

As a programming note, I’m in the “not much to say” period of Nats blogging. This happens after 9 years I guess.

Oh and Nats fan fights on Twitter are dumb.

SOME OTHER STUFF YOU OUGHT TO CHECK OUT

The Worst NatsTM fan and puppy hater is tumblin‘ a little bit. Good to have you back Chris.

Thomas Boswell chat from yesterday – he’s the Bos-iest!

VIDEOS THAT MAKE YOU FEEL GOOD

I was going to have Wilson Ramos’ 5 RBI July 4, but they don’t have it embeddable. MLB Video is arbitrary.

D’oh! Didn’t get this up for Federal Baseball’s Wire Taps.

Taylor Jordan vs. Cole Hamels tonight.

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John Lannan kind of gets revenge, Nats almost comeback, lose to Phillies in 9th

Here’s my idea for the Washington Nationals season — just score 4 or more runs for Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann start. Take your chances when Ross Detwiler and Dan Haren pitch. Three runs might even be enough for Stras, Gio and Znn.

I’m not going to get into haiku (DC Sports Bog, The Post) or caring about what some flyover city’s columnist says.

Philadelphia Phillies starter John Lannan got some measure of revenge in last night’s no decision. He’s better than Haren. Jonathan Papelbon vultured a win by giving up Chad Tracy’s 2 out, 2 strike 9th inning home run. Tracy has produced a little as of late which is nice. Fernando Abad couldn’t get out of the ninth (The Nats Enquirer), giving up Dominic Brown’s game winning single with 2 outs and 2 strikes.

The season series with the Phillies is tied.

Also, pranks aren’t cute (The Nats Enquirer) when you are underachieving and a game under .500.

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Nats can’t take Cleveland series and now face John Lannan for the first time in Philly

My guest prognosticator, Vince Guerrieri was right — his Cleveland Indians did take their series with my Washington Nationals.

That succinctly describes the Nats weekend. Two solid pitching performances by Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg were wasted, while a poor outing by Jordan Zimmerman was redeemed by Nats homers, including Anthony Rendon’s first, a game-winner after a missed-foul ball:

Even when hitting four homers on Saturday, the Nats needed a gimmick to win. They needed that to beat the Rockies on Thursday (two balks to advance the tying run) and the only run on Friday night was on a wild pitch.

Since the Nats have dug themselves in a hole of mediocrity (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/dc-sports-bog/wp/2013/06/17/the-nats-and-world-series-winners-through-68-games/), a 1-2 road series is tough to swallow, especially when they had runners on the corners with no outs twice yesterday and the bases loaded with no outs too. They can’t let games like that slip away and still make the playoffs.

The mediocrity isn’t entirely due to bad luck, though roster construction and an under-performing bench plays a big part. Injuries have really hurt this team:

Bryce Harper really needs to put the helium down (Nats Enquirer) and get back in the lineup. That’ll probably solve some problems. Does this suddenly scarce, inert gas help with bursitis?

Tonight begins a big series in Philadelphia. The Phillies are four games under, but will certainly be eager to play the Nats, particularly tonight’s starter, John Lannan, who returns after a lengthy stint on the DL. If his sinker is on, he’s tough get much more than a groundball off of — in other words, the Nats bats will probably have trouble with him. Dan Haren is starting and that could get ugly quickly.

Lannan, who has the second most wins (42) for a DC pitchers since 2005, surely wants this one badly and I expect him to pitch about 5⅔ innings and give up no more than 2 runs with 2 double-plays. I also expect him to get on base twice.

The Nats really need this series to keep pace with the Braves, who lead by 6½ games. The Nats picked up a game over the last 10, but could have picked up a few more with some hitting with runners in scoring position. With about 90 games to go, the Braves can be caught, but it will be at a very slow pace unless the Nats get hot. They can’t wait for the lineup to be healthy to pick up all the ground.

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2013 Nats vs. Phillies Q&A and prediction with Kevin McGuire of Macho Row

We’re almost ⅓ through the season and just now getting to the first Washington Nationals vs. Philadelphia Phillies series. As always, I’ve invited Kevin McGuire of Macho Row (and several other sites) to talk baseball. PREVIOUSLY: 2011 | 2012

WFY: Only a game separates the Washington Nationals and the Philadelphia Phillies in the standings – just like we expected right? While there is some angst over being in second place a mere game over .500 in D.C., how is the Delaware Valley handing the Phils situation?

KMc: The people, they are not happy. This Phillies team is going to keep their heads slightly above water long enough to keep some of the most optimist of fans waiting for something to spark, but if you take a good hard and honest look at the team you can see the flaws in the roster. More importantly you can see the flaws in the management of the team, with a keen eye on the general manager. The problem with this Phillies team is they are consistently inconsistent. They can win two of three in San Francisco and make you think things have finally changed, and the next night they can putrid on offense and/or defense against the Marlins. This is why they enter the weekend just under .500. Even if they happen to leave D.C. this weekend with two or three wins, it will take more to convince anyone they have truly turned any corner.

WFY: What in the name of Tommy Greene is going on with the Phillies starting pitching? Roy Halladay is out, Cole Hamels has a mere win. Somebody must be picking up the slack if they are a game under .500.

KMc: Roy Halladay was hurt when he arrived in the spring, and probably when he was pitching last season. It was disappointing and painful to watch while he was on the mound this season, but at least there was a reason for his struggles. Cole Hamels is a totally different story. Hamels has not had command of his pitches this season and has shown how frustrated he can get when things are not going well. There does not seem to be any injury concern here so hopefully it is just something Hamels can change mentally with his approach. I would like to believe he will be able to do that if he can come out on the winning end of two or three games in a row. That said, he gets no run support either. If the Phillies could just be .500 in starts by Hamels, we would be talking about a second place team chasing the Atlanta Braves instead of a team struggling to reach the .500 mark.

So while Hamels struggles and Halladay’s season is placed in jeopardy, we have seen Kyle Kendrick put together a solid season and prospects Jonathan Pettibone and Tyler Cloyd do enough to give the team a chance to win some games. Kendrick has adapted well in pressure situations but I’m not totally on board with believing it will be sustained for the entire season. Pettibone has been impressive with his approach on the mound as well, but I wonder how long it will be until opposing bats figure him out a little more, and how he responds to that. The Phillies have lost just once with him on the mound so he has certainly been a pleasant surprise since being called up to fill in. The jury is still out on Cloyd after two starts. I have a feeling he could be sent down for some other pitcher at some point but he has done his job admirably as well.

WFY: How weird was it seeing John Lannan in a Phillies uniform? When is he due back? Is his place in the rotation secure?

KMc: Very strange considering the history between he and the Phillies, notably Chase Utley. But once a player puts on your uniform all is forgotten or forgiven it seems. He was actually pretty solid in his Phillies debut but his season was quickly put on pause with an early injury. From what I have read it appears Lannan is beginning to get back to throwing but there is no real timeline for his return just yet. It’s not going to be any time too soon though, so right now it is anyone’s guess. I’ll have to wait and see how the rest of this rotation is playing before really assessing if his spot in the rotation is secure or not. Right now I would think his spot is secure, as he would replace one of the two extra spots currently filled by minor league pitchers Pettibone or (more likely) Cloyd. But if this rotation sees solid production out of their minor league arms and the Carlos Zambrano experiment pays off, Lannan could become a bullpen option. But that is a lot of ifs.

WFY: Is it safe to assume that Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are battling injuries right now?

KMc: Yes. Utley underwent an MRI, which we are still waiting for the results a sI type this up, after being scratched from the lineup following batting practice the other day. Howard also underwent an MRI recently but he quickly returned to the lineup. You can tell Howard does not move as he once did, so there may still be some concerns there that he is battling back from.

WFY: Dominic Brown was supposed to be a big deal, but when I last checked in he had not put it together yet, has he? How about the rest of the outfielders?

KMc: He’s not there yet, but he has his moments. Brown’s at-bats will sometimes leave fans frustrated with early swings leading to easy outs and 32 strikeouts to just nine walks. His defense has led to some miscues in the field as well, but he also has his positive moments on offense and defense that show what he may be capable of. On a team that lacks power, Brown leads the team with eight home runs and he is just one RBI behind the team lead with 24 (Howard and Utley have 25 each), so he has some value on the club right now. The problem is we were led to expect so much more from Brown after the team traded away so many prospects the past few years but refused to move Brown. I do believe that giving him a full-time job this season though will pay off and show us whether or not he can be considered the real deal. I think it is too early to call him a bust, but he is certainly a long way from being compared to Bryce Harper or Mike Trout.

WFY: Around 2011 it looked like we might be headed for a great, two-sided Nats-Phillies rivalry, but then the Phillies seemed to get old quickly and the Nats ascending earlier than expected, so the two teams didn’t battle for divisional positioning like we expected. They wound up splitting the series though with the Phillies getting hot in the second half. Has the perspective changed up there? Where do the Nats rate as Phillies rivals these days?

KMc: It is a shame we couldn’t see these teams be good at the same time, but I think the games have still become more fun to watch now that the Nationals have gotten better. You’ll still find plenty of Phillies fan who will shrug aside the idea of Nattitude and feel that everything the Nats do is gimmicky or forced, but they are generally the Phillies fans who started acting like the Phillies are the best thing since sliced bread in 2007. I think right now, overall, the Nationals have earned a new level of respect. The Phillies saw their NL East streak ended at the expense of the Nationals, and that deserves a tip of the hat. In terms of rivalry, I think it would be fair to say the Nationals are currently second behind the Mets, if only because it’s always fun to beat up on the Mets. I would place the Nationals above the BRaves though, because there just aren’t enough Braves fans to fuel the rivalry.

WFY: Bryce Harper appeared to earn the respect of the Phillies (especially Hamels) last season, but what do the fans think of him?

KMc: Bryce Harper is the guy we love to watch, and love to hate. I think in Philadelphia we can respect any player who goes all out every time they take the field, and that is exactly what Harper does. Sure, he’s a punk and maybe feels a little entitled form time to time, but he brings it on the field and at the plate and for that he has our respect, or at least my respect. He also speaks his mind and has a good respect for the game. What is there not to like about that?

He’s the guy we hate now, but would take on our team in an instant. You guys don’t really deserve him. He’s a Philly kinda guy. Can we have him? We’ll give you John Lannan back…

WFY: Has there been much Jayson Werth talk up there this week? He’s on the DL now.

KMc: You don’t hear people talk about Jayson Werth much any more. I think that fun has died down a little bit. Now that we are in the third year post-Werth, the animosity has passed and now he is treated more like any other player from an opposing team. Yeah, he’ll get a few more boos and insults thrown his way when he does play against the Phillies, but that doesn’t mean he is considered public enemy number one or anything.

WFY: How has Phillies fandom changed in the last decade? When I went to the first Nats game in 2005, there seemed to be a lot of nostalgia for the 1980s teams (lots of powder blue jerseys) and not too much else. When I visit the Jersey Shore, I’d see a lot more Eagles stuff than any of the other teams. That shifted late in the last decade with the Phillies winning it all, but as of last year it had receded a bit. How are things now?

KMc: Ten years the Phillies were largely an afterthought, but there was some optimism for the future. Moving in to a new stadium after decades in cavernous Veterans Stadium and a team that looked to be trying to win some baseball games started changing that fan attitude regarding the baseball team. While the last year has been a rough stretch, the Phillies have built a larger fan base, or at least a larger and more vocal fan base. Fortunately for the Phillies they have been the most successful team over the last few years in this city, which has now gone a full calendar year without a single playoff game in any of the top four sports, and that has helped keep them near the top of the sports headlines.

This is an interesting time in Philadelphia’s sports though. With the Phillies have clearly taken a step back in progress in their sport, and the Eagles are once again the franchise generating the most buzz. With Chip Kelly in town doing things new and exciting in terms of running the team, he is a breath of fresh air for the fans and he is quickly becoming one of the most popular sports figures in town. The Eagles have always been the most popular team in the city overall, with the Phillies taking a brief lead in 2008 and 2009, and it appears they once again will be the clear winners in town in terms of popularity. Now, if they can just win some games…

WFY: Has Citizen’s Bank Park changed much since I was there? I was impressed by it, that’s a pretty good ballyard, especially since it is surrounded by parking. Do they still have that stupid sign blocking the skyline?

KMc: Not too much has changed at the ballpark over the years but if it has been a few years there are some changes you may want to take note of. There is a statue of our beloved and legendary broadcaster Harry Kalas in the open area of the concourse in left field that makes for a nice photo opportunity. As far as food is concerned, Chickie’s & Pete’s has expanded from a small concession stand on the edge of Ashburn Alley to a larger standalone concession area right across from where the stand was once occupied. This allows for longer but faster-paced lines for the top concession snack in the ballpark, crab fries. The old Chickie’s & Pete’s stand has been converted to a beer garden operated by The Alley Brewing Company with a variety of domestic, export and micro brews to choose from. They also have an exclusive lager available only in Citizens Bank Park. Also, Federal Donuts has arrived for a good, cost-effective snack.

Yes, that stupid and pointless sign is still there, blocking the view of the city skyline.

WFY: Who takes this series and the season series?

KMc: While I spoke highly of Kendrick, Pettibone and Cloyd and their performance on the mound this season, I just have a weird feeling about them this weekend against the Nationals. I know Washington has been struggling this season as well, but I would find it hard to believe Washington’s offense can out-underperform the Phillies this weekend. My guess is Washington takes two of three before shipping up to Boston for some inter-league play on Monday. As for the season series, I’ll take the Nationals by a small margin. I have more faith right now the Nationals will be able to get things fixed before the Phillies do as long as the roster in Philadelphia looks like this for the entire season.

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My top five baseball games

A while back, Tom Bridge listed his top five baseball memories. I thought, hey, that sounds like fun. Then I got sick, so I’m not just getting back to it. These are all games that I attended. Here they are in no specific order:

Opening Day 2005 Washington @ Philadelphia

I lived in Northern Virginia since before I turned two, but we never had a D.C. baseball team. Five days before the very first Nats game, on a whim, I check Opening Day ticket availability. They had some, but a little pricey. I went on to ebay and found four together at or below face — hit Buy It Now. I called up a friend here and he was in. Then I called a fan in South Jersey who was a Phillies fan and he responded with my invitation wtih “is the Pope German?!” My wife bailed out because she got a job interview that day (got the job). I got to see the first Washington baseball game of my lifetime.

Opening Night 2008 Atlanta @ Washington

Tickets were scarce, but there were ticket lotteries. My family all got in so I could get a chance. My father wound up winning it and he gave me tickets. Walking into brand new Nationals Park I had a feeling that the Nats were finally here for good. The Nats scored early, but a blown save left the game tied. Then Ryan Zimmerman homered off of Pete Moylan and I started screaming “RYAN ZIMMERMAN IS MR. WALKOFF!” I gave him the nickname that night. I felt like a dawn of a new era and an ascending Nats team. They started off 3-0 and after Jesus Colome blew a save in Philly, lost over 100 of their next 158 games.

Strasburg’s debut Pittsburgh @ Washington

In 2010 we all hoped to see Stephen Strasburg’s debut, but I decided I wasn’t going to worry about when it would be and try to get a ticket for it. By chance, a Pirates fan was convinced to go to a Tuesday game with me and another friend and his girlfriend. It turned out to be Strasburg’s debut.

Nationals Park was electric in a way I hadn’t seen it, hanging on every pitch. Sure, Opening Night 2008 was like that at the start and end, but in the middle (a long middle with no Nats hits) it was just another game. Another cold game. But for Strasburg’s debut, every pitch was a moment of breathless anticipation. Fourteen strikeouts later he was done, an incredible debut. The best debut in D.C. sports history? I’ll say it was better than Alex Ovechkin’s first game and that was really good.

Nationals Park 2012 final game

The season finale, the Nats had clinched and were just tuning up for the playoffs. Teddy finally won. The Nats won. It was the last baseball game I saw with my dad – he was gone a month later.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Any game at Yankee Stadium. I went to four of them between 1989 and 2008. The Yankees split with the Seattle Mariners and Kansas City Royals in those games.

Final Nats game at RFK Stadium

The exhibition game that didn’t happen — Yankees vs. Mets in 1993. My dad took us out of school to go to RFK Stadium. Frank Howard’s number was “retired” and then the game was called.

Bachelor Party in 2005 — Nats overcame Tony Armas Jr. pitching and won their 10th in a row or something. Ah, June 2005.

The Memorial Day game in 2005 where Frank Robinson got a Brian Jordan home run overturned.

July 4, 2006 Ryan Zimmerman walk-off

I’m probably forgetting some, but at some point, you have to close up. I could put together a “vicarious” list with games I watched on TV too and maybe I will.

Also, The Post has a good feature about baseball memories from Nats players, fans, George Will, etc.

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Werth: Healthy 2012 Nats could have won 120 games

Responding to claims by Jimmy Rollins that the Washington Nationals would have finished second to a healthy Philadelphia Phillies team last year (The Inky), Jayson Werth suggested that a healthy Nats team could have won 120 games.

That’s just crazy, but Werth is correct that the Nats were not entirely healthy. He missed most of the season with a broken wrist. Others like Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond were ailing and missed time, as did the now-departed Michael Morse. That Nats got through it because of extraordinary starting rotation health. Counting on that for this season is a bit dubious.

Werth also points out not to sleep on the Phillies which is the appropriate approach. The Phillies showed their age last year and lost Ryan Howard and Chase Utley for much of the season. They still pulled it together late to surge to a 81-81 record.

I think the Nats are the team to beat in the NL East, but I would be surprised if they reach 98 wins again. They don’t really have to either, the only regular season “win” that matters is the division or the play-in game.

By the way, my recollection is that the only team to win 120 games was the 1998 New York Yankees, who won 114 games in the regular season and 11 post-season games on their way to another World Series title. Werth’s 120 claim is ridiculous, but he’s correct that the Phillies are still a threat.

39 days until Opening Day…

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