Sunday's Phillies lineup for the series finale in D.C. at Nationals Park is quite an interesting one, to say the least.
Could it be a glimpse into the plans for 2018?
Maikel Franco will make just his eighth career appearance at first base, J.P. Crawford is back at third base and Aaron Altherr makes his first start since coming off the disabled list this afternoon vs. the Nats.
Franco, who's batting fifth today, has not started at first base since June 24, 2015, when he started the second of two straight games there during interleague play against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium.
Phillies manager Pete Mackanin wants to get Crawford, batting eighth today, as many at bats as possible, but Franco did go 2 for 4 with a home run last night and has hit safely in 11 of his last 14 games. In that span, Franco has hit .275 with four doubles, three homers, 6 RBIs and 10 runs scored. Franco's average is still just .226 on the season, but there is a reason to keep his bat in the lineup with the way he's swung it over the last two weeks or so.
That means Crawford's playing time will come today at the expense of Tommy Joseph, who's just 6 for his last 34 at the plate, a .176 average in that span.
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Altherr, who's hitting .285 on the season with 16 homers and 49 RBIs and been the Phillies' best hitter this season this side of Rhys Hoskins, starts in center today in place of Odubel Herrera. It marks Altherr's first start since Aug. 4 in Colorado when he reaggravated his hamstring injury. He appeared in a defensive replacement role in last night's win, but he didn't record an at-bat. He'll bat sixth today.
And, yes, of course, Hoskins will be back in the lineup after going yard last night for the 14th time this season. He'll be in left and bat clean-up.
Rookie Ben Lively gets the start for the Phils. The 25-year-old is 3-5 on the season with a 3.92 ERA and is coming off a stellar performance last week in New York vs. the Mets. He hurled seven innings of one-run ball and even drilled his first career homer in a 9-1 victory.
He'll be opposed by Nats star fireballer Stephen Strasburg, who enters today's contest with a 12-4 record and a 2.78 ERA. He's just been exceptional this season and has proved it against the Phils in three starts. He ended up with a no-decision while giving up three runs over seven innings in a 4-3 Phils win on April 9. He ended up with another no-decision after seven innings of two-run ball in an eventual Nats win on April 14. He wasn't his sharpest on May 5 but earned a win after 5 2/3 innings of shutout ball.
Both teams' full lineups for today's series finale can be found below:
1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Nick Williams, RF
4. Rhys Hoskins, LF
5. Maikel Franco, 1B
6. Aaron Altherr, CF
7. Jorge Alfaro, C
8. J.P. Crawford, 3B
9. Ben Lively, SP
1. Trea Turner, SS
2. Adrian Sanchez, 3B
3. Wilmer Difo, 2B
4. Adam Lind, 1B
5. Victor Robles, CF
6. Andrew Stevenson, LF
7. Pedro Severino, C
8. Rafael Bautista, RF
9. Stephen Strasburg, SP