The Nationals and Phillies meet for the first time this season with just one game separating them in the NL East standings. With ace Zack Wheeler on the mound, the Phillies are road favorites at -190 on the moneyline while the over/under is at 8.5 runs. The prediction here is that the Nationals (+160) take the first game of this series.
Phillies vs. Nationals Prediction
Starting Pitchers: RHP Zack Wheeler (4-4, 3.60 ERA) vs. RHP Josiah Gray (4-5, 2.77 ERA)
Phillies ace Zack Wheeler is coming off his best start of the season on May 27 against the Braves: 0 earned runs, 12 strikeouts and 1 walk in 8 innings pitched. It was an encouraging sign for a Phillies team that desperately needs its starting rotation to round into form as the calendar turns to June.
Nationals starter Josiah Gray, by contrast, is coming off arguably his worst start of the season – at the very least, his shortest. On May 27 against the Royals, he threw 91 pitches but could only get through four innings while giving up 2 earned runs and 3 walks and striking out 4 batters.
Gray has had a sterling start to the season with a 2.77 ERA through 11 starts (14th in MLB), but he also has the 5th most BB/9 and 2nd lowest K/BB. The Phillies are not well-positioned to take advantage of Gray’s propensity to give up free baserunners. They are just 25th in MLB in walks drawn and they have the 7th most strikeouts.
Philadelphia enters this series on a four-game losing streak after being swept by the Mets this week. Their underperforming lineup has been especially cold over the last two weeks. They are in the bottom six in the league in runs scored, average and OPS over their last 13 games. Washington, on the other hand, has been heating up. Over the same timeframe they are 5th in runs and average and 3rd in OPS.
Even with Wheeler on the mound, I just don’t trust this Phillies team to win games right now. I certainly don’t trust them enough to lay -190 on the moneyline, so I am taking the +160 odds on the home dog and backing Washington. With both teams’ top pitchers on the mound, and the Phillies struggling offensively, I am also taking the under on 8.5 runs.
Phillies vs. Nationals Prediction: Nationals ML +160, under 8.5 runs
Phillies vs. Nationals Odds
The Phillies are road favorites at -190 on the moneyline and -1.5 (-115) on the run line. The Nationals’ moneyline odds are +160 and they are getting +1.5 runs on the spread at -105 odds. The over/under is 8.5 runs with -115 odds on the over and -105 on the under.
Phillies vs. Nationals Key Matchups
Here are the key matchups that could decide Phillies vs. Nationals.
With two very good pitchers on the mound in this matchup, the game could be decided by which team can score a few runs against the opposing bullpen.
The Phillies have the edge in this category, as their bullpen carries a 4.04 ERA and 3.97 FIP according to FanGraphs. Those figures rank 11th and 12th, respectively, in MLB. By comparison, the Nationals have one of the weakest bullpens in baseball with a 4.52 ERA (25th) and 4.90 FIP (29th).
The Phillies’ pen has been especially strong over the last three weeks despite one of their best arms, Jose Alvarado, going on the IL on May 8. Since then they have a 2.39 ERA (3rd best) and 3.51 FIP (9th).
Between Wheeler and the bullpen, the Phillies’ pitching is one reason why I picked the under in my Phillies vs. Nationals prediction.
Josiah Gray vs. Phillies’ lefties
Despite being a right-handed pitcher, Gray has been better against lefty hitters this season than he has against right-handers. He’s allowing a .207 average and .647 OPS against lefties compared to .273 and .756 against righties.
Another big difference, however, is his aforementioned propensity for walks. He has walked lefties 23 times this season compared to just 8 against righties in a roughly equal number of plate appearances.
The Phillies’ two biggest power bats – Kyle Schwarber and Bryce Harper – both hit from the left side, and the Phillies likely need production from both of them in this game. Schwarber is also 5th in the majors in walks per plate appearance, while another Phillies lefty, Brandon Marsh, is 22nd. Schwarber and Marsh’s ability to get on base could be big factors in this game.
Phillies vs. Nationals Starting Lineups (Projected)
Phillies Starting Lineup
2B Bryson Stott (L)
SS Trea Turner (R)
DH Bryce Harper (L)
RF Nick Castellanos (R)
LF Kyle Schwarber (L)
C J.T. Realmuto (R)
CF Brandon Marsh (L)
3B Edmundo Sosa (R)
1B Kody Clemens (L)
Nationals Starting Lineup
RF Lane Thomas (R)
2B Luis Garcia (L)
DH Joey Meneses (R)
LF Corey Dickerson (L)
3B Jeimer Candelario (S)
1B Dominic Smith (L)
C Keibert Ruiz (S)
SS CJ Abrams (L)
CF Alex Call (R)