The Nationals and Phillies have given one another plenty to think about between now and July 31, the next time they face each other. They won’t play again for more than two months, and then 12 of the Nationals’ final 61 games will come against Philadelphia, including the final three.
So far, the Nationals have the upper hand, four wins to two, but they have outscored the Phillies only 22-20. The Nationals have not seen Chase Utley, Ryan Howard or Cliff Lee, and for the past three games the Phillies did not have Jimmy Rollins. The Phillies haven’t had to face Michael Morse or Drew Storen, while in the first series Ryan Zimmerman was on the DL and in this series they missed Jayson Werth.
The Nationals have won every game Cole Hamels did not pitch. In the two games he did start, Hamels and the Phillies dominated. Gio Gonzalez has been just as dominant against the Phillies, winning twice, while Jordan Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg started the other two wins.
The Phillies have the experience, having won five straight division titles. The Nationals have more youth, and they can play with the thrill of chasing the reigning champs rather than the strain of trying to hold on. You can slice however you want.
“I think it’s close,” Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel said. “I think we got ‘em, though.”
The upstart Nationals and old guard Phillies make for a delicious storyline, but the rest of the National League East will shape what could be a fabulous pennant race just as much. The Marlins have been baseball’s best team in May. The Braves sit a half game behind the Nationals. Even the Mets are hanging around.
“We’re going to battle,” Bryce Harper said. “The NL East is really good. Great pitching. Great hitting. The Phillies are who we’re probably going to go after the next couple years. They’re good. And we’re good.”
Who’s best? For now, the Nationals. For when it matters, check back in a couple months.
FROM THE POST
FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Syracuse was off.
Harrisburg 5, Altoona 3: Tim Pahuta went 2 for 3 with a double and a home run. Danny Rosenbaum allowed three runs in 5 2/3 innings on seven hits and three walks, striking out four. His ERA sits at 0.99.
Harrisburg 3, Altoona 2: Jesus Valdez went 1 for 2 with a double and a walk. Eury Perez went 1 for 3.
Wilmington 3, Potomac 0: Justin Bloxom went 1 for 3 with a double and a walk. Michael Taylor went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts. Francisco Soriano went 1 for 3 with a triple.
Greensboro 8, Hagerstown 6: Alex Meyer allowed one run in five innings on one hit and two walks, striking out eight. Jason Martinson went 2 for 4 with a double and a walk. Matt Skole went 1 for 4 with a home run and a walk. Caleb Ramsey went 2 for 3 with two homers, a walk and 5 RBI.