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The Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Nationals have remained in the thick of the NL wildcard picture currently manning the two spots in the tight race. The two are set to begin their three-game set on Friday night in what could be a pivotal series between the two NL East division rivals.
Nationals eyeing strong start to second half
Throughout the first half of the season, the Nationals have worked their way through some tough stretches, but have managed to keep themselves above the .500 mark while staying in contention for the playoffs with the bulk of that push toward the wildcard picture. Washington currently holds the top wildcard position being just a half-game ahead of the Phillies heading into Friday’s contest. The Nationals have been able to get by largely behind the strong play of their core group that has seen a few contributors stepping up. The team doesn’t necessarily have the most productive offense, but it has largely been led by the stellar play of star third baseman Anthony Rendon, who has been putting together a career-best campaign in 2019. Rendon may be hampered by nagging injuries, but he has continued to put forth impressive numbers as he’s batting .304 with team-bests with 20 home runs and 62 RBI.
Rendon has been their most consistent bat that is on a career-high pace to notch 36 home runs and 113 RBI. He also isn’t far removed from a strong month in June, where he hit .307 with nine home runs, 24 RBI, and 22 runs scored. Meanwhile, outfielder Juan Soto has been their next most reliable bat as he’s hitting .300 with 15 RBI, 56 RBI, and a .943 OPS on the season. The combined production from Rendon and Soto have been the stabilizing force for them at the plate that should play some significant factors on the road against the Phillies. The Nationals will be turning to one of their most consistent arms on the mound with right-hander Stephen Strasburg, who has been putting together a respectable campaign. Strasburg holds a 10-4 record with a 3.24 ERA, and an .215 opposing batting average in 18 starts this year. Given the direction the Nationals have headed over the last couple of weeks with presumably a healthy Rendon bodes well for them on the road against a division rival.
Phillies eyeing playoff push
The Phillies entered the 2019 season with plenty of expectations laid ahead of them to become one of the top teams in the National League after a fruitful offseason that was capped off by the addition of star outfielder Bryce Harper early in spring training. Philadelphia has stumbled a bit from those expectations, but they have been able to stay in the playoff picture at the halfway point having put themselves in the second wildcard spot just a half-game behind the Nationals. The Phillies have been able to get by with their core group providing production in their lineup. It hasn’t quite been the start that the team had hoped to get out of Harper, but he has had some strong production out of his bat as he has a team-best 62 RBI along with 16 RBI despite hitting .253 on the season. Harper has been more of a boom-or-bust type of batter this year as he has 105 strikeouts that is on pace for 189 strikeouts while trajecting to hit 29 home runs.
First baseman Rhys Hoskins has had his fair share of issues at the plate but has been productive as he’s hitting .263 with 20 home runs and 59 RBI that has him track to notch 36 home runs and 106 RBI. Harper and Hoskins have been the Phillies primary source of offensive production this year, but they have had the type of season that the team is hoping to see of them, especially with Harper being in the fold to give them a formidable duo threat in their batting order. Nonetheless, the second half of the year does present a chance for them to breakthrough for what may be a highly productive while helping lift Philadelphia in playoff contention. The Phillies are sending right-hander Nick Pivetta to the mound, but has struggled to find consistency currently holding a 4-3 record with a 5.89 ERA, and a .293 opposing batting average in 11 starts. In his last four outings, Pivetta holds a 0-2 record with a 7.33 ERA, nine home runs allowed, nine walks given up, and a .305 opposing batting average. This along with his utter effective play against the Nationals this year holding a 0-2 record with a 13.00 ERA, and a .368 opposing batting average in two starts pushes this contest heavily in favor of Philadelphia.
- Phillies are 3-9 in Pivetta’s last 12 starts vs. National League East division opponents.
- Phillies are 3-10 in Pivetta’s last 13 starts following a team loss in their previous game.
- Phillies are 0-5 in Pivetta’s last five starts when their opponent allows two runs or less in their previous game.
- Nationals are 5-1 in their last six road games.
- Nationals are 15-3 in their last 18 games against National League East division opponents.
- Nationals are 5-1 in their last six during Game 1 of a series.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
The Phillies may have the benefit of beginning the second half of the year at home, but they are facing a surging Nationals team. It also helps Washington that Pivetta has struggled monumentally against them this year in his first two starts. All of this seemingly pushes things quite heavily in the Nationals’ favor. They are also 4-0 in Strasburg’s last four road starts against the Phillies.
Prediction: Washington -126
Full-Game Total Pick
Given that being the case, the Nationals should be able to tee off against Pivetta on Friday night. This sets the table for a higher-scoring affair at least on their end with their bats with potentially a healthy Rendon leading the charge. It should be noted that the over is 6-1 in Pivetta’s last seven starts against the Nationals.
Prediction: Over 9.5