Phillies face the Nationals in D.C.
It's difficult to understate, but the next two weeks have the potential to define the remainder of the summer for the Phillies. The club opens a crucial three-game set with the Nationals on Friday night in D.C.

The two clubs will meet another four times next week at Citizens Bank Park, but not before the Phillies play host to the AL East-leading Yankees for a three-game set starting Monday.

The Phillies sit a half-game behind the Nationals in the NL East and 3 1/2 games behind the division-leading Atlanta Braves.

A strong showing over the next week-plus keeps the Phillies in contention and may push the club and general manager Matt Klentak to be buyers at the trade deadline. A bevy of losses would bury the club in a tight divisional race.

It's a significant spot on the schedule. Luckily for the Phillies, the Nationals are sputtering a bit right now having won just three of their last 10.

Tanner Roark, coming off a lackluster four-inning outing this past week, will start the series opener for the Nats. The right-hander surrendered eight hits and four runs in an 8-6 loss to Toronto. Over 18 appearances against the Phillies, he's 6-7 with a 3.98 ERA.

The Phillies counter with Zach Eflin who has been exceptional as of late, pitching to the tune of a 1.93 ERA over his last three starts while limiting opponents to a .212 batting average.

Hot Herrera & Hoskins
Odubel Herrera and Rhys Hoskins have both enjoyed success at the plate over the last two weeks. Herrera is hitting .271 with five homers, and nine RBIs while Hoskins is hitting .357 with four homers and 13 RBIs.

Bullpen Woes
The Phillies bullpen is scuffling, posting a 5.84 ERA this month which is the third-worst mark in all of baseball. The Nationals, meanwhile, have had success late in games thanks in part to a 2.69 bullpen ERA, the fourth-best figure in the majors.
Follow Patrick on Twitter: @PGordonPBR

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