The second half of the Major League Baseball season is set to begin this weekend, and playoff races are heating up. The Philadelphia Phillies will be hosting the Washington Nationals on Friday night for the first of three games. Both of these teams are in the thick of the playoff race, but each of them still has plenty of work to do.
Washington has been on a tear of late and has actually moved ahead of the Phillies in the standings. The Nationals come into this game with a record of 47-42 and sit in second place in the National League East. Philadelphia has a 47-43 record on the season, but they were supposed to be much improved in 2019. The Phillies still have a shot at the Wild Card but are well behind the Atlanta Braves. The Washington Nationals are -140 over the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday night.
Strasburg to Start for Washington
Stephen Strasburg is set to start for the Nationals on Friday night, and he is having one of the best seasons of his career. Strasburg has won seven of his last eight decisions and is a big reason that the Nationals are back in the playoff race. The hard-throwing right-hander is 10-4 with a 3.64 earned run average this season and will need to pitch deep into this game. Washington has one of the worst bullpens in baseball, and that area has to improve in the second half.
Third baseman Anthony Rendon has been the best offensive player for the Nationals this season, but he has had plenty of help as well. Rendon leads the team with 20 home runs and 62 runs batted in to go along with a .304 batting average. The Nationals have a pair of young stars in Juan Soto and Victor Robles, and they should be in for a big second half.
Phillies Need More From Harper
If the Philadelphia Phillies are going to play their way into the playoffs this season, Bryce Harper is going to have to hit much better. Harper does lead the team with 62 runs batted in this season but is hitting just .253. Rhys Hoskins leads the team with 20 home runs, but the Phillies are really missing the bat of Andrew McCutchen, who is out for the season with a knee injury. The Phillies will try to solve Strasburg on Friday night.
Right-hander Nick Pivetta will be on the mound for the Phillies in the series opener, and he is looking to turn his season around. Pivetta has a ton of talent but has gone just 4-3 with a 5.84 earned run average this season. He has been lit up by the Nationals in his two starts against them this season, giving up 13 earned runs in just nine innings pitched.
Strasburg, Nationals Win Series Opener
The Phillies might have stolen Harper from the Nationals, but Washington has found a way to win without him. The Nationals were playing great baseball before the break, and that trend should continue in this game. Strasburg has been pitching well all season and will pitch his team to victory on Friday night. Bet the Washington Nationals -140 over the Philadelphia Phillies.