Following a brief respite yesterday -- just wondering, when's the last time a team's home opener was rained out and they actually needed to use that built-in off-day? -- the Nationals return to Citizens Bank Park tonight for game two of a three-game set with the Phillies.
This will already be the fifth game between these two clubs in nine days. While it's been obvious at times that the Phillies are a more-talented team, the disparity between the two actually hasn't been great as I might have thought. Throw out last week's Opening Day fiasco in D.C., and things have been fairly competitive otherwise.
The Phillies won last Wednesday's game 8-4 thanks to a big fifth inning off Jason Marquis (hmm, sound familiar?) but the Nats came back to win Thursday's finale 6-5 behind some stellar relief work. And then on Monday, the Nationals had every reason to spoil Philadelphia's home opener, only to squander an early 4-0 lead en route to a 7-4 loss.
Point is, the Nats easily could (and probably shoulder) be 2-2 against the two-time defending NL champs. And they've got a great opportunity to beat them again tonight.
Craig Stammen and Kyle Kendrick are on the mound in a rematch of last Thursday's game, in which the Nationals beat around Kendrick and scored five runs in four innings. The right-hander is beatable.
The Nationals also have an opportunity to take advantage of a depleted Phillies lineup. Jimmy Rollins almost certainly won't play tonight and could wind up on the disabled list with a strained calf (an injury suffered just moments before Monday's game). And Jayson Werth (who has just killed Nats pitching so far this season) also could be out of the lineup with a hip injury sustained Monday.
Talk about golden opportunities. The Nats aren't going to go into many more games this season against the Phillies feeling like they've got the upper hand. When these rare occasions do crop up, they've got to make the most of it.