The Nationals appear to have caught the Phillies at the perfect time and it has given them a legitimate shot at avoiding a sixth straight losing season.
Washington tries to sweep a four-game set from Philadelphia for the first time in over eight years this evening and keep the National League East champions winless since clinching the division.
The Phillies have lost a season-high five straight games since locking up their fifth straight division crown on Saturday. That includes a loss in the first three contests of this series and they haven't been swept in four games by the Washington franchise since the Montreal Expos turned the trick from Aug. 25-28, 2003.
Washington's 7-5 victory last night was also its eighth in its last 10 meetings with Philadelphia overall, giving them a slight 9-8 edge in the season series. The Nationals will be trying to win five in a row over the Phillies for the first time since the 2001 season.
Having won four in a row and nine of 11 overall has also pulled the Nats to within four games of the .500 mark. They have posted five straight losing seasons since going 81-81 in 2005, their first season after relocating from Montreal.
Wilson Ramos had three hits with a home run and three RBI in last night's win, while Danny Espinosa added a two-run homer to help John Lannan earn his 10th victory of the season and just the second of his career against the Phillies.
Espinosa has torched the Phils all season, with seven of his 21 homers this season coming against the club.
"His concentration is probably better," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said of Espinosa's success against the Phillies. "When you play against the best in front of a full house, you get up for it."
Washington won despite Jayson Werth sitting out with a bruised right elbow suffered during Tuesday's doubleheader. He won't play tonight either with the hope that he can return this weekend versus the Braves. Ramos is also expected to get the day off to rest his sore right leg.
John Mayberry Jr. had three hits last night, one a late two-run homer, and scored three runs, while Ben Francisco added three hits and an RBI. Vance Worley took the loss for allowing four runs over six innings.
"He had the ball up most of the night and it got him in trouble," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.
Philadelphia will play its final home game of the regular season tonight, but has already locked up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Roy Oswalt gets the call after picking up the victory on Saturday that clinched the NL East.
The veteran right-hander allowed just five hits over seven scoreless innings versus the Cardinals, striking out seven without a walk. He improved to 8-9 with a 3.66 earned run average on the season.
"Anybody could come out here tonight and have a good chance to win. With the starting staff we got, I just happened to have had the ball tonight," said Oswalt about his role in the clincher. "I was able to throw a good game. They gave me a couple runs to work with."
The 34-year-old also tossed shutout ball the last time he faced Washington, going eight innings to beat them on Aug. 20. Oswalt is 7-4 lifetime versus the franchise with a 2.95 ERA.
Taking the hill for the Nationals will be Brad Peacock, who made his MLB debut in relief on Sept. 6 and suffered a blown save before beating the Mets in his first start last Wednesday.
The 23-year-old righty scattered two hits over five scoreless innings, walking three and striking out two.
"After I threw that first pitch I was fine," Peacock said. "I just made sure I took deep breaths out there and settled in nicely."
Peacock has allowed a run and six hits over 6 1/3 innings.