Phillies eye 4-game sweep of visiting Nationals

MLB Baseball

The Philadelphia Phillies will be looking for a four-game series sweep when they host the Washington Nationals on Thursday.

Not too long ago, the Phillies were 9-14. If they can complete a four-game sweep of the Nationals on Thursday, they would improve to 18-15.

On Wednesday, Philadelphia won 3-0 against three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer. The Phillies have also posted back-to-back shutouts.

The Phillies will hand the ball Thursday to right-hander Zach Eflin (2-1, 4.10 ERA). Facing the Braves in his most recent start, Eflin tossed seven innings and gave up four hits and one run while striking out eight and walking none.

In career against the Nationals, Eflin holds a 3-3 mark with a 4.17 ERA in seven starts.

“For Zach, I’ve been thrilled with what I’ve seen,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said.

Eflin has been more effective this season with an improved curveball. In his latest outing, he recorded six strikeouts with the curveball.

“I’m not flipping it over for strikes anymore,” Eflin said. “I’m being aggressive with it and trying to create as much spin as possible with it. I think that’s complementing my other pitches. I’m happy with where it’s at, and I’m happy to continue moving forward with it.”

The surging Phillies continue to receive production from different players, which has been a key component in their winning streak. Rhys Hoskins has compiled four straight multi-hit games, but he was given the day off Wednesday.

Hoskins’ replacement, Neil Walker, came through with three hits and two RBIs.

“I think we’re finally starting to settle in,” Hoskins said.

The defending World Series champion Nationals dropped to 10 games below .500 at 12-22 following Wednesday’s shutout loss.

Hoping to avoid a sixth consecutive defeat, the Nationals will turn to struggling starter Anibal Sanchez.

Sanchez (1-4, 6.90 ERA) will be making his seventh start. His last outing was in Boston on Saturday, and he allowed eight hits and five runs in five innings of what turned out to be a 5-3 defeat.

In Sanchez’s career against the Phillies, he is 6-11 with a 4.39 ERA in 25 starts.

“The first couple innings, the first two innings, I feel the ball really weird. I don’t know why,” Sanchez said after his latest start. “I don’t have an explanation for that, but after that, I started to figure out how to put the ball down, especially because I needed to work with my changeup.

“I think I got a couple pitches that I missed up, but I did it with a purpose, so yeah, all the time the key for me is working down. I elevated the ball when I don’t want to. I paid the price.”

Sanchez has scuffled through many stretches during his six starts, but he believes that better days are ahead.

“I feel good lately,” he said. “But in the first inning, I don’t know, I tried to hit the corners, I tried to hit the spots, I think they were jumping quickly on the ball.”

The Nationals managed only four hits on Wednesday — singles by Luis Garcia, Victor Robles and Asdrubal Cabrera plus a ninth-inning double by Kurt Suzuki that extended his hitting streak to 12 games.

–Field Level Media

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