Making more noise off the field than on it these days, the slumping Philadelphia Phillies try to rebound from yet another disappointing effort as they contend with the Washington Nationals on Saturday evening.
Expected to be contenders in the National League East this season, both clubs have come up rather small, with the Nationals five games under .500 and 15 1/2 games out of contention, while Philadelphia is three games further behind following the squad's dismal 9-2 setback on Friday night at Nationals Park in the opener of a three-game set.
Philadelphia, which has designated both Laynce Nix and Delmon Young for assignment in the last several days and watched Jimmy Rollins clear waivers within the last day or so, managed only four hits against the Nationals in the series opener, two by Chase Utley, who recently signed a two-year contract extension.
Michael Young and Domonic Brown, the latter just coming off the disabled list, had the other two hits for a Phillies squad that has dropped seven of the last nine.
"We're just not playing as well. There's no one way to look at it," Michael Young said. "We've obviously had some pretty key injuries that have contributed to that, but at the same time, it's at a point where every guy's got to play with some pride and take pride in the way you play the game."
Making the start against his former team was John Lannan, who lasted just five innings for the visitors while being knocked around for eight runs on nine hits and five walks. Lannan struck out three but also surrendered a pair of home runs.
"He has to definitely have command," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said of Lannan. "He has to be good, he has to be perfect on his pitches. He has to go in and out, up and down on the corners and things. He can't live in the middle of the plate, or up."
Denard Span and Anthony Rendon both knocked in a pair of runs for the Nationals, the latter delivering his sixth home run of the season during the onslaught. Rendon scored twice, as did Wilson Ramos, while Ian Desmond and Adam LaRoche both tallied a pair of hits and Ryan Zimmerman connected on his 13th home run of the campaign.
Dan Haren picked up the win for the Nationals, giving up just two runs on four hits, fanning seven over the course of seven innings.
"I felt really good out there today, really comfortable. The ball was moving pretty good. Then obviously getting all the runs made it pretty easy," Haren said.
A loser in each of his last three outings, Cliff Lee tries to get back on track tonight when he takes the hill for the visitors. The left-hander, originally drafted by the Montreal Expos in 2000, last picked up a victory back on July 5 versus Atlanta at home.
Since then he has made three starts and all have ended up as defeats for the Arkansas native. The most recent of those outings took place on Sunday when he faced off against those same Braves, giving up three earned runs on eight hits and a couple of walks, while striking out eight in just five innings of action.
During this recent slide, Lee also bowed to the Nationals at home on July 10 when he was assaulted for four homes runs on nine hits over seven innings, en route to a 5-1 setback.
Despite the loss a couple weeks ago, Lee has a career mark of 6-4 with a 2.74 ERA in 10 appearances versus the Nationals.
As for Washington, it has penciled in rookie hurler Taylor Jordan to confront the Phillies bats. The right-hander has been up with the big club since the end of June and has just one win to show for seven appearances. After suffering three defeats through his first five outings, Taylor finally picked up his first big league victory on July 28 versus the New York Mets in a lopsided 14-1 final.
More recently, the Florida native matched up against the Milwaukee Brewers on the road last weekend and gave up four runs on four hits through 5 1/3 innings of work, striking out two and walking a pair as he failed to earn a decision.
Even though he is barely six weeks into in major league career, Taylor already has one loss against the Phillies stemming from a July 9 matchup that saw him make it through 5 2/3 innings, allowing three earned runs on eight hits.
In terms of the season series, Washington closed the gap to just a single game (6-5) with last night's victory. Last year the squads split their 18 matchups.