In one sense, there is not much in common between the Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Nationals entering their Saturday matchup in the nation's capital.
The Phillies are in yet another slump. The Nationals have won their past two games, topping the Los Angeles Dodgers and Philadelphia.
"These guys are relentless and doing little things," Nationals manager Davey Martinez said of his players. "We're playing good."
However, both the Phillies and Nationals hold 25-32 records. It's not supposed to be that way for the Phillies, in particular.
Philadelphia has lost five in a row, though the club wiped out a six-run deficit to pull even late in the Friday night contest before losing 8-7.
"This game is a really humbling game," Phillies right fielder Nick Castellanos said. "It forever owes you nothing. It doesn't matter how hard you worked the year previous or what you had in the past. You have to come and earn your meal every single night."
Lane Thomas had the game-winning hit in the eighth inning in the series opener, going 1-for-4. His 15-game hitting streak ended in Washington's previous game.
"He has been really good," Martinez said of Thomas. "He just broke his streak a couple of days ago, and for him to come back and get that big hit for us was huge."
The Nationals will have left-hander MacKenzie Gore (3-3, 3.57 ERA) as their starter on Saturday. Washington went 0-6 in Gore's six May starts, though he was charged with losses in only two of those games. In his latest outing, he went seven innings and gave up one run while striking out a career-high 11 in a no-decision at Kansas City on Sunday.
Gore pitched twice -- once in relief, once as a starter -- last year for the San Diego Padres against the Phillies, and he tossed a combined eight scoreless innings.
With the lefty on the mound for Washington, it's likely that Drew Ellis will start for Philadelphia. The right-handed hitter played in his second game with the Phillies -- his first start -- on Friday night and went 1-for-3 with a walk before being lifted for a pinch runner.
The Phillies didn't designate a starting pitcher for Saturday until after the Friday game. They will go with left-hander Matt Strahm (4-3, 3.20 ERA) to begin the game in what appears to be a bullpen day.
Since getting moved to the bullpen in early May, Strahm has pitched more than two innings just once, when he lasted 2 1/3 innings at San Francisco on May 17. In his lone start in the past month, he gave up two runs in two innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks on May 23.
In three career appearances (one start) covering 8 1/3 innings against the Nationals, Strahm is 0-1 with a 6.48 ERA.
Martinez said the Phillies can put up runs in a hurry, so he'll stress to his team to tack on as many runs as possible.
"You look over there and I look up and down that lineup, there are no easy outs over there," Martinez said.
Former Washington shortstop Trea Turner, facing the Nationals for the first time since joining the Phillies, went 1-for-5 in the series opener. Castellanos carried the Philadelphia offense with four hits, two of them home runs, helping him produce a five-RBI night.
--Field Level Media