MLB

Phillies-Nationals Preview

WASHINGTON -- Pitcher Joe Ross of the Washington National sat at his locker on Saturday, looking at his phone and then laughing with young outfielder Michael A. Taylor.

Ross was about 24 hours away from taking the mound on Sunday at Nationals Park against the Philadelphia Phillies in the finale of a three-game series.

After getting swept by the Phillies here in late April, Washington will get a chance to turn the tables on Sunday. And the pitching matchup seems to favor the Nationals, as Ross will enter the game with a record of 5-4 and a 2.92 ERA, while opponent Adam Morgan of the Phillies is 1-5, 6.70.

Ross is coming off a tough outing on Tuesday against the White Sox in Chicago, though the Nationals came back to win 10-5 after he left the game.

The first-place Nationals have won nine of their last 12 games and are a season-best 14 games over .500 at 38-24.

"It is a big stretch," Washington manager Dusty Baker said. "We are only home 10 days this month."

It has been a unique stretch for the Nationals, who arrived in the nation's capital around 4 a.m. on Friday and then played about 15 hours later against Philadelphia in a normal 7:05 p.m. start that day.

Then they started at 12:05 p.m. on Saturday, with the early start giving the team a chance to prepare for its annual charity gala Saturday night.

The Sunday game is a rare 4:05 p.m. start, allowing the Nationals to rest up after the big night.

The message board in the Nationals clubhouse said that players are to arrive by 1:30 p.m. for the 4:05 game on Sunday.

On top of that, Washington general manager Mike Rizzo and his staff set up headquarters in the ground floor at Nationals Park for the amateur draft, which ended Saturday.

The room that is usually used by Baker for pre- and post-game press conferences has been converted into draft headquarters, with Baker holding his post-game sessions in his office -- one that is filled with part of his colorful art collection.

The mood is not so bright in the Phillies clubhouse, as the team has lost 16 of their last 21 games after they were a season-best seven games over .500 at 24-17 on May 18.

Philadelphia has decided to bench veteran first baseman Ryan Howard and go with Tommy Joseph, a former top prospect at catcher.

But the offense didn't respond on Saturday as Washington starter Tanner Roark went seven innings in an 8-0 win.

"Roark pitched well, we didn't hit," said Phillies manager Pete Mackanin, a former draft pick of the Washington Senators. "It looked to me like we were guessing. We were guessing wrong on pitches, and that's something we've got to get away from."

The Phillies will get their next chance at that on Sunday against Ross, but the numbers are not encouraging. Ross is 2-0 with a 0.61 ERA against the Phillies this season.

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