These next two weeks could be make-or-break for the Phillies, who beginning Friday play 17 straight games against the Braves, Nationals and Mets.
Between Aug. 21 and Sept. 7, every game is against one of those three teams. The Phillies are in Atlanta for three this weekend, off Monday, in D.C. for three with the Nationals Tuesday-Thursday, then home to face the Braves and Nationals.
These next two weekends are the Phillies' final two series against the first-place Braves. The teams have split the first four games.
You'll recall that the last time these two teams met, Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuña Jr. entered the series cold before brutalizing the Phils. In their doubleheader, Acuña went 5 for 8 with three homers. He won't play this weekend. Acuña hasn't played since the day after that Phillies-Braves series. He was placed on the injured list with a wrist issue and there is no timetable for his return.
Freeman has continued to hit since that series and enters with his typical .287/.398/.529 slash line.
The Phillies are 6-4 so far against the NL East. They have not yet faced the 9-12 Nationals, who they'll see seven times in their next 13 games.
Washington is without Stephen Strasburg. He may not pitch again this season because of a nerve injury. Only four of the nine combined starts from Max Scherzer and Patrick Corbin have been good ones, and Anibal Sanchez has taken a major step back, which helps explain the team ERA of 4.72. As of now, the Phillies are slated to face both Corbin and Scherzer next week.
Juan Soto is the Nats player to avoid and will be for the next decade. He's hitting .417 with a 1.438 OPS, 7 HR and 16 RBI in 13 games. The Nats don't really have other big power threats, though. The middle of their order has included players like Asdrubal Cabrera, Starlin Castro, Howie Kendrick and Eric Thames. Soto and Trea Turner are the players you worry most about.
Most look at the Phillies' record against the Marlins last season as the reason they failed to finish with a winning record, but the Phils also had some pathetic games against the Nationals. They went 5-14 against Washington and were outscored 106-72. But again, the 2020 Nationals are not the 2019 Nationals. Strasburg started three of those games, and Anthony Rendon hit .353 with a 1.102 OPS against the Phillies last season. Strasburg is out and Rendon is an Angel.