Phillies

Aaron Nola, Phillies in position to reverse an ugly trend

Phillies

You don't have to look too hard to see all the differences between the 2019 and 2020 Nationals. 

Last-place Washington is without Anthony Rendon (Angels), Stephen Strasburg (out for season) and Sean Doolittle (IL), three integral players in their championship run. They're also without both pieces of their first base platoon last season (Ryan Zimmerman and Matt Adams).

The Nationals' offense has dropped from 5.39 runs per game last season to 4.78 this season. The loss of Rendon has been huge. He had an MVP-like season a year ago with remarkable consistency. He hit .319 with a 1.010 OPS, 44 doubles, 34 homers and 126 RBI, despite missing a couple of weeks early in the season. From April 1-on last season, Rendon's batting average didn't dip below .302 or his OPS below .996. The guy just did not slump.

And a lot of that damage was done against the Phillies. Rendon hit .353 against the Phillies with nine extra-base hits and 13 RBI in 15 games last season. Against Aaron Nola in 2019, Rendon reached base in 6 of 11 plate appearances, homered, doubled, drove in three runs and walked more than he struck out. He's a career .333 hitter against Nola.

Nola, like any pitcher, is thrilled to not have to face Rendon in divisional games anymore. Think about how good J.T. Realmuto has been this season. Rendon's OPS last year was 48 points higher — in a full season. Removing that big bat from the lineup would change the complexion of any team.

Nola, who starts tonight opposite lefty Patrick Corbin, did not pitch well against Washington last season. In four starts, he went 0-1 with a 6.86 ERA. He walked 11 batters and was taken deep six times in 21 innings. In fact, if you subtract only Nola's starts against the Nationals last season, his ERA drops from 3.87 to 3.52.

 

The Nationals have had a strong roster since Nola's rookie year but this is the worst Washington lineup he'll have faced. We're talking about Asdrubal Cabrera in the cleanup spot. Beyond the 1-2-3 of Trea Turner, Adam Eaton and the incredible Juan Soto, this lineup lacks true threats and has pockets a pitcher can work around.

It's a good opportunity for Nola to reverse the trend.

Zack Wheeler, who faces Max Scherzer in the series finale Thursday, also had his troubles with the 2019 Nats. He had a 6.83 ERA and .291 opponents' batting average in five starts against them. 

Since 2015, the year Scherzer arrived in Washington, the Phillies have gone 34-62 against the Nationals, a .354 winning percentage. They've gone 17-33 in D.C. 

Scherzer has faced the Phils 18 times as a National and gone 10-2 with a 2.46 ERA. But just like this is the worst Nationals team Nola has faced, it's the best Phillies lineup Scherzer will have faced. 

The first Phillies lineup Scherzer pitched against as a National included Ben Revere, Freddy Galvis, Cody Asche, Jeff Francoeur and Cameron Rupp. 

The next season, Scherzer's first start against the Phillies included matchups with Cedric Hunter and Darin Ruf. 

In 2017, Scherzer's first start was against the Phillies, who batted Michael Saunders and Tommy Joseph fifth and sixth.

When Scherzer struck out 15 Phillies in their first meeting of 2018, the Phils started Pedro Florimon, Jorge Alfaro and Aaron Altherr.

It's just a far, far cry from this 2020 Phillies offense which ranks second in the majors in runs per game and has players that can beat you with power, speed or selectivity.

Throw the career numbers out in this head-to-head matchup. We're talking about completely different teams.