Phillies, Nationals ready for rubber match in NL East rivalry

Field Level Media

June 04, 2023 at 10:24 am.

It isn’t so much a celebration for the Philadelphia Phillies, but they might go into Sunday’s game at the Washington Nationals with a more positive mindset.

The Phillies have ended a five-game losing streak. That might have been the first step toward turning things around.

“So far this year we’ve struggled a little bit to start the season, but I expected us to turn it around like we did last year,” said Rob Thomson, who took over as the Phillies’ manager for fired Joe Girardi last June.

Philadelphia advanced to the World Series, losing to the Houston Astros in six games.

The first series of this season between the Phillies and Nationals is even at one game apiece after Philadelphia’s 4-2 victory Saturday. The Phillies got a home run and double from J.T. Realmuto, who had gone 14 games without driving in a run.

“You’re really just one swing away from getting out of a slump at all times,” Realmuto said.

The Nationals had a chance to move ahead of the Phillies in the NL East with a series sweep but still hope to win the three-game set.

“We have a chance to win another series (Sunday),” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “So let’s come back.”

The puzzling part for the Nationals offensively has to be that they couldn’t take advantage of Philadelphia’s so-called “bullpen day,” when seven pitchers were used.

“Just couldn’t get the offense going,” Martinez said. “The bats were stale. … I think it’s a challenge for any team seeing different guys almost every inning, but you’ve got to make adjustments.

Philadelphia’s starting pitcher Sunday will be lefty Ranger Suarez (0-2, 7.13 ERA). It will be his fifth start of the season, with his best performance his most recent stint with 6 2/3 innings against the New York Mets on Tuesday. He allowed two runs.

Suarez holds a 5-0 record with 3.56 ERA in 11 career outings, four starts, against the Nationals.

Right-hander Trevor Williams (2-3, 3.93) gets the call for the Nationals. He has worked at least five innings in each of his past three starts but is 1-2 during that stretch. He issued three walks in both of his last two assignments after going his first nine outings without yielding more than two walks.

Williams is 0-2 with a 4.94 ERA in six all-time appearances, including four starts, against the Phillies. Last year pitching for the New York Mets, he faced the Phillies twice and didn’t surrender a run in six innings.

The work of relievers has generally been solid for the Nationals, though it has been difficult to know exactly how much they’ll get from their starters.

“I think our bullpen goes in there and they do a good job,” Martinez said.

Washington should be in a good position for the series finale because it didn’t have a game Thursday and has another idle day Monday.

On the flip side, the Phillies are finishing a 10-game trip — they are 3-6 so far — and they played Thursday and don’t have another off day until next Thursday.