Aaron Nola, Phillies shoot for sweep of Nationals

MLB Baseball

The Philadelphia Phillies will look to complete a three-game sweep of the Washington Nationals on Wednesday, weather permitting.

Rain is forecast for most of the day and night in Washington, and that might be the only way to stop the Phillies’ offense these days.

Philadelphia has won five straight games as it chases the division-leading Atlanta Braves, plus the Cincinnati Reds in the wild-card race. The Phillies went 17-11 in August.

“All you can ask for is a chance,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We have an opportunity in front of us. I think about some of the things we’ve been through this month and managed to keep going. We need to keep the momentum going.”

Right-hander Aaron Nola (7-7, 4.30 ERA) opposes Washington right-hander Paolo Espino (4-4, 4.13) in the finale.

Nola, who hasn’t earned a win since July 25, has been solid in his past two starts. Last time out, he allowed two runs in 5 1/3 innings of a no-decision in a game against the Diamondbacks that the Phillies eventually won. He struck out seven without a walk.

“I just want to win on the mound again,” Nola said recently. “It’s been a while since I got a win.”

Nola is 6-7 with a 4.08 ERA in 23 career starts against the Nationals. He gave up five runs in five innings at Washington on Aug. 5, but the offense bailed him out with a late rally.

Espino is coming off a strong outing against the Mets. He earned the win after giving up a run on three hits in five innings while striking out a career-high seven batters without a walk.

“He threw strikes today,” manager Dave Martinez said. “He moved the ball around like we talked about, he used all four quadrants with his fastball and his curveball was really good today as well. So, he pitched well.”

Espino will be facing a Phillies lineup that pounded out 18 hits in a 12-6 win on Tuesday night. Andrew McCutchen, Rafael Marchan and Brad Miller each homered, and Matt Vierling went 4-for-5 for Philadelphia, which has scored seven or more runs in six straight games.

Bryce Harper had three hits, raising his average to .306 and increasing his hitting streak to eight games. He hit .337 with 10 homers and 25 RBIs during August.

Catcher J.T. Realmuto (ankle) missed his second straight game.

Washington starter Patrick Corbin couldn’t hold a 5-2 lead as the Nationals dropped their fourth straight game. Carter Kieboom homered for the second straight night.

Earlier in the day, outfielder Victor Robles was sent down to Triple-A Rochester.

Robles, 24, was the center fielder on the 2019 World Series champions and finished sixth in the Rookie of the Year voting. But he has struggled this season, hitting .203 with a .310 on-base percentage. That and the emergence of center fielder Lane Thomas, who was acquired from the Cardinals for Jon Lester, resulted in the demotion.

“I don’t want him to think about anything but going out there and playing,” Martinez said of Robles. “I want him to relax for a while, go down to Rochester, play every day, continue to work on the things that he was working on with (hitting coach Kevin) Long, and just go out and play baseball.”

Should the rain win out on Wednesday, both teams have an off day on Thursday that could provide a makeup date.

–Field Level Media

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