Washington Nationals: Starting Fast Critical Against Phillies

rshinberg
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 20: Scott Kingery #4 of the Philadelphia Phillies is tagged out at home plate by Kurt Suzuki #28 of the Washington Nationals during the second inning at Nationals Park on June 20, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 20: Scott Kingery #4 of the Philadelphia Phillies is tagged out at home plate by Kurt Suzuki #28 of the Washington Nationals during the second inning at Nationals Park on June 20, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /
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The Washington Nationals open the second half of their season against the Philadelphia Phillies.  Success in this series will come from starting fast.

As the saying goes, “It Is Not How You Start, It Is How You Finish.”

While, generally, this is true, the opposite applies to the Washington Nationals in their upcoming series against the Philadelphia Phillies.

By starting quickly, the Nats might find success easily.

The last time the Nats faced their rivals from The City of Brotherly Love was on June 19 and 20 after rain delays turned into game postponements on June 17 and 18.

After that three-game sweep of the Phillies, the Nationals have won 11 of 15 games, while the Phillies have won 8 of 16 games.  This caused the Nats and Phillies to flip-flop places in the National League East standings, and for the Nats to jump ahead in the Wild Card race.

However, the Phillies’ situation is direr than those numbers indicate.  Of their eight losses in that span, five were to the Miami Marlins, and two were to the division-leading Atlanta Braves.

The team also lost Andrew McCutchen for the season on June 24 after he suffered a torn ACL.  On July 5, Odubel Herrera accepted a season-long suspension for violating the MLB’s domestic violence policy.

After getting as high as 11 games over .500 at the end of May, the Phillies are in a complete free fall.  There is no question that the organization circled this home series against the Nationals, conveniently after the All-Star Break, as a “reset” and “get back on track” series.

This is why it is critical for the Nats to start quickly and supress the Phillies’ hopes of rebounding.  If the Nats can knock around Nick Pivetta early in the game tonight, there is no doubt that the thoughts of “here we go again” will creep into the minds of players, and fans, alike.

By getting Pivetta out of the game early, the Nats can eat into the Phillies’ bullpen, which has posted the third-worst ERA in the MLB since the start of June.  That can start a chain reaction of bad play from the home team, leading to a straightforward series win for the Nats.

Starting fast might also have ramifications for the season as a whole.  If the players and coaching staff prove to the front office and ownership they are contenders, the owners might be willing to take on money, and general manager Mike Rizzo might be comfortable relinquishing prospects in exchange for rental players, or building blocks for the next year or two.

Next. Report Card: Middle Infield. dark

At 6:05 P.M. (yes, six o’clock!) eastern time tonight, the Nats must come out of the gates hot and set the tone for the rest of the series against the Phillies, while also continuing their positive momentum from June and early July.

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