Rivalry Renewed

Following a rather depressing series against the Boston Red Sox, where the Phillies failed to do much more than leaving a ton of runners on base, the local nine will look to get back above the .500 mark when they welcome in the Nationals to CBP for a three-game set starting Monday night.

It will allow the Phillies the opportunity to make some headway in the division, while also giving us a look a Hamels vs Harper, Round 2. If you recall, Hamels plunked Harper with a fastball to the back when the youngster stepped into the box in Washington, which set off a mild controversy that ended with Cole being suspended for five games.

This time around, the rivalry will take place at Citizens Bank Park, which will allow the fans from the greater Philadelphia area to express their love for Bryce Harper. When asked about playing in front of the notoriously though Philly crowds, the outspoken rookie seemed to have a sense of humor about it.

From USA Today:

”Hopefully I get a couple boos,” he said. “I’m excited to get up there and play. Hopefully they don’t throw any batteries at me.”

He is, of course, referring to the reputation that Philadelphians have garnered for themselves to a handful of disreputable incidents over the past few decades. And you know something? I like Bryce. Call me crazy, but even though he plays for a new rival that should be fairly competitive for the foreseeable future, I still like watching him play. And despite the fact that he seems to have been pre-saddled with the baggage of a cocky, brash braggart, he seems to be just the opposite. At least, so far.

While there is far more to this series than Harper’s first at bat against Hamels on Wednesday (and whether any other Nationals pitchers will retaliate (Of course, that would only really work if the Phillies had a young, dynamic prospect they could call up. I wonder if they have any of those…), that serves as a nice primer for what should be a good series.

The Phillies, despite losing the last two games, are at .500 for the season, and are starting to hit the ball with some consistency this month. That could be the result of facing the Chris Volstad’s of the world, but I prefer to think that it’s because the bats are starting to gel a bit.

Here are your pitching matchups…

Monday: Kyle Kendrick vs. Gio Gonzalez: The last time Double K faced the Nats, he out-dueled ace Stephen Strasberg, and allowed one earned run over five innings, in a game the Phillies would go on to lose. He’ll be opposed by the very good Gonzalez, who chewed up the Phillies in his last appearance against them, as he continues to be a great addition to the Nationals rotation.

Tuesday: Roy Halladay vs. Jordan Zimmermann: Doc earned his first win since the middle of May last Thursday in Chicago, and he’ll look to keep his good fortune rolling when he faces off against young right-hander Zimmermann who was on the losing end of the stick in the series finale in D.C. two weeks ago, but don’t expect him to roll over.

Wednesday: Cole Hamels vs. Edwin Jackson. Aside from beaning Bryce the last time out, Cole was pretty good against the Nationals, so let’s see if he can replicate that success against a team who, for all intents and purposes, wants to squash him like a bug. His counterpart is Jackson, who was last seen bewildering the Phillies hitters in Game 4 of last season’s NLDS.

It’s a fairly even-handed matchup, as neither of these teams possess much of an offense, which the starting pitching seems to favor the Phillies, who get to throw their two best pitchers at the Nats. The success of this series will greatly hinge upon Monday night’s game, and whether or not Kendrick can give the Phillies a fighting chance in the early-goings.

National League East baseball fever -- catch it!

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