Important week for Phillies begins with their ace on the hill


The Phillies are back home briefly after going 2-4 against the Dodgers and Giants on their weeklong trip to California. They’re off Monday, as are 15 other teams.

This is an important week for the Phils, who have been above .500 once in their last 26 games and have clung to that mark for much of the season. 

The Nationals come to town for a two-game series Tuesday and Wednesday. Then the Phillies go to Citi Field for four games in three days against the Mets with a doubleheader Friday.

The Mets have been in first place since May 8 and have overcome injuries to most of their lineup and pitching staff, including several scares with Jacob deGrom, who might be on his way to the best season ever for a pitcher if he can stay healthy. DeGrom started Monday night against the Braves and is in line to face the Phillies this weekend.

But first are the Nats. They haven’t named a starter for Tuesday but will go with Erick Fedde (4-4, 3.33) in Game 2.

The Phillies will start Zack Wheeler and Vince Velasquez. Wheeler is 5-3 with an appropriate 2.15 ERA for the Phils. He leads the majors with 96⅓ innings and has averaged 6.8 per start.

The Nationals are 33-36, a game behind the Phillies in the division. Washington has averaged 3.2 runs over its last 11 games and enters 28th in the majors at 3.77 per game. They do have a hot hitter in Kyle Schwarber, who homered five times Saturday and Sunday.

Juan Soto has still gotten on base at an elite rate and walked more than he’s struck out but has not been as much of a run producer as he was from 2018-21. Much of that is because the Nationals’ offense has lost so much of the punch that used to support him. It’s difficult to replace Anthony Rendon and Bryce Harper and the Nats’ everyday lineup is a shell of what it was two or three seasons ago. Their main additions over the winter were Josh Bell, who's hitting .222 with a .708 OPS, and Schwarber, who's hit eight of his 18 home runs in the last eight days.

Most teams just pitch around Soto, who is hitting .276/.406/.432 after hitting .351/.490/.695 in 48 fewer plate appearances last season.

Trea Turner is a threat as always. He’s batting .315 and leading the National League with 15 stolen bases in 18 attempts. He went 4 for 4 swiping bags against the Phillies last summer but was caught in his only attempt in six games against them this season.

Max Scherzer (groin) and Stephen Strasburg (neck) are both on the injured list. Patrick Corbin, whose start against the Phillies in mid-May was his best of the year, was one of the most hittable pitchers in all of baseball the first two months but his last two starts have been good ones. The Phillies won’t see him in this series.

Rhys Hoskins had some good swings in the final few games of the Phillies’ West Coast swing. He homered off of Clayton Kershaw in the series finale against the Dodgers, hit two homers and drove in six runs against the Giants Saturday and had a few well-hit flyouts. Nearly every player in the majors can be described as streaky but Hoskins is especially streaky and may have just begun a hot one.

The Phillies’ most consistent hitters through 69 games have been Jean Segura, who is on the IL for the second time this season, and J.T. Realmuto. Segura missed two weeks with a quad strain and was placed on the IL last Wednesday with a groin strain.

Realmuto has hit .292/.397/.491 with 11 doubles, seven homers and 29 RBI in 204 plate appearances. He singled in his first at-bat of the season and his batting average hasn’t dipped below .286 since. His on-base percentage has been above .390 for more than two months. 

He has gotten better offensively in each season as a Phillie, his OPS rising from .820 to .840 to .888 so far this season.

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