The Washington Nationals are back at home after a cross-country trip, probably in an encouraged mindset
It's not that way for Washington's opponent Friday though. The visiting Philadelphia Phillies are spinning in a discouraging stretch. They are mired in a four-game losing streak and have won just five times in their last 17 games
"We just haven't put it all together yet," manager Rob Thomson said.
This begins a three-game series that will conclude a 10-game road trip for Philadelphia. The Phillies hold an 11-21 road record
"It's important for us to go into (Washington) and play a good series, play a good first game," Phillies outfielder Kyle Schwarber said
These will be the first meetings of the season between the NL East rivals. They'll begin another series at the end of the month.
This starts a six-game homestand for the Nationals, who snapped a three-game skid Wednesday with a 10-6 victory against the Los Angeles Dodgers. That wrapped up a 3-3 road swing, when they twice scored double-digit runs
"To win the last game to go back home feels pretty good," Nationals manager Davey Martinez said
The problem came in the three losses when Washington scored a total of six runs, though Martinez said he believes the Nationals have been making good contact. They're coming off that offensive outburst against the Dodgers when Keibert Ruiz slugged two of the team's season-high five home runs
"These guys are playing hard," Martinez said. "We've been hitting the ball hard, so let's continue to do that."
The Nationals hope Lane Thomas can launch another hitting streak after his 15-game string ended when he went 0-for-5 on Wednesday. That also snapped his 26-game on-base stretch
The Phillies will give the ball to right-hander Zack Wheeler (4-4, 3.60 ERA) hoping that he can have a repeat of his last start. In that game, he shut out the Atlanta Braves for eight innings while striking out 12. That turned out to be Wheeler's only victory in May. He has three of his pitching triumphs this year in road games
"He had everything going," Thomson said of the game in Atlanta.
Wheeler, who turned 33 years old earlier this week, is familiar with the Nationals; this will be his 29th start against them, the most of any opponent. He owns a 10-14 record with a 4.31 ERA vs. Washington -- a victory would match his 11 wins against the Atlanta Braves for the most vs. any foe
Right-hander Josiah Gray (4-5, 2.77) will be the starter for the Nationals. His shortest outing of the season came in his most recent start: He lasted four innings, giving up two runs in a no-decision at Kansas City
Gray threw 91 pitches in that start. Control has been a snag for him; he walked 18 in 28 innings in May.
"I think I had a few eight-plus-pitch at-bats," Gray said, "so that probably knocked me out a little sooner than I wanted."
Gray is 1-2 with a 5.40 ERA in five career starts against the Phillies, yielding eight home runs in 25 innings
The Phillies will be without infielder Alec Bohm, who was placed on the injured list Thursday with a left hamstring strain. He's the team leader with 37 RBIs
"We want to take care of it and knock it out," Thomson said of Bohm's ailment.
--Field Level Media