The Philadelphia Phillies come to D.C. tonight to begin a three-game series against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. It is the first meeting between the two teams in 2011, and as usual when these two teams meet, there are plenty of story lines to watch. The NL East-leading Phillies (7-2) are looking to continue to hold dominance in the Division, and the third-place Nationals (4-5) look to continue to ascend the standings.
The majority of fans on both sides will be watching Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth as he takes the field for the first time against his former team, after signing with the Nationals for a seven-year/$126 million dollar deal in the offseason. Plenty of words have been said regarding Werth, the Phillies and whether the grizzly-looking outfielder's heart is truly in D.C., but tonight it all comes to a head. There will be plenty of Phillies fans in attendance and it will be interesting to see how they treat a player they once highly coveted.
The Nationals will be without third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (abdominal strain) and possibly Adam LaRoche (groin) in a nightmarish storyline. It is unknown how exactly the Nationals are going to fill the holes that no longer have Zimmerman and LaRoche on the corners and in the line-up.The Phillies have outscored the Nationals over the past two seasons, 223-152, so there couldn't have been a worse time to lose two valuable starters to injury.
A lesser, but still important story to watch is the two starters the teams put out on the mound tonight. Nationals starter Livan Hernandez (0-1,4.76 ERA) will be facing the Phillies' Joe Blanton (0-0, 14.54 ERA). These are two pitchers from two different teams on different ends of their rotations, but both looking for redemption. Both pitchers are coming off rough last starts. Hernandez is looking to prove he belongs at the top of the Nationals rotation, while Blanton is pitching just to prove he belongs.