Washington Nationals (19-9) vs Philadelphia Phillies (12-15)

When: 7:05 PM EDT, Friday, May 5, 2017

Where: Citizens Bank in Philadelphia, PA

Lines: Washington -175/-160/ Philadelphia +150

Total: 8

PHILADELPHIA — Earlier in the week, Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Aaron Nola told reporters he thought he could make his next start, after missing one with a back injury.

That next start was supposed to be Friday night in Philadelphia, when the Phillies return home from a seven-game road swing to face the Washington Nationals.

But Nola (2-0, 4.50 ERA) left the team in Chicago on Wednesday and returned to Philadelphia, with an MRI scheduled to find the cause of his lower-back pain.

“He felt a spasm in his lower back when he went to tie his shoes or something,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “We’re not going to take any chances.”

So Nola will not pitch Friday night, meaning Nick Pavetta (0-1, 3.60), who was recalled from Triple-A Lehigh Valley to fill in for Nola last week, will get his first taste of the Philadelphia home crowd Friday night.

The Phillies (12-15), who went 1-6 on their trip, welcome a Washington team with the best record in baseball (19-9) to Citizens Bank Park for a three-game series. The Nationals head to Philadelphia after taking two of three at home against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Bryce Harper left Thursday’s 3-1 win with a left groin injury. Harper was lifted after the sixth inning but said he felt good. Harper, who is hitting .376 with nine home runs and 27 RBIs, is day-to-day.

“Get out of there and get some treatment,” Harper said.

Philadelphia returns home after losing five times by two runs or less against the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs.

“We knew what we were up against going on this road trip: The Dodgers and the Cubs (are) both formidable teams,” Mackanin said after a 5-4, 13-inning loss in Chicago on Thursday. “We beat the Cubs pretty handily the first night and had chances to win the next three games. We played them well; we just fell short.”

Friday marks the start of six games in 10 days the NL East rivals face each other. At the conclusion of their Mother’s Day affair on May 14, they will have faced each other 12 times already this year.

The season series to date is even at three wins apiece.

Washington on Friday will send hard-throwing righty Stephen Strasburg (2-1, 3.09) to the mound to oppose Pivetta. It will be the third time Strasburg has faced the Phillies already in 2017.

In the two previous starts, Strasburg received no decision, with similar line scores.

In both starts — and like all of his 2017 starts so far — Strasburg threw exactly seven innings. He allowed five hits and struck out eight each time. The Phillies have scored a total of five runs on him in 14 innings.

Lifetime, Strasburg has faced the Phillies 19 times and has an 8-2 record. He sports a 2.47 ERA, 0.863 WHIP and 154 strikeouts in 124 innings.

Pivetta, 24, who made his major league debut Sunday in Los Angeles, has obviously never faced Washington. In his lone start, Pivetta, whose fastball touches the mid-90s, lasted five innings. He allowed two runs on nine hits, one being a home run, while striking out five against one walk.

“It was all nerves,” Pivetta told the Philadelphia Inquirer in Los Angeles. “It was, ‘Holy cow, I’m here. Now let’s focus and do what you’ve been doing to get yourself here. It was hard to differentiate those two things; but, once I got into that fourth, fifth inning, it was good.”

Perhaps he’ll be more relaxed in his second start. Though the hot Nationals bats will likely make that difficult.

A 23-run outburst Sunday helped, but Washington’s 179 runs scored on the year are the most in baseball.

About the only place these Nationals need work is in the bullpen, which has one of the highest ERAs in the majors.

“The bullpen has been disappointing,” Nationals GM Mike Rizzo told reporters last week. “They’ve got great stuff and they need to pitch better. I think they will.”

If that happens, the Phillies — and the rest of baseball, for that matter — are in trouble.



CAVS -4.5

ROX +104
CLEVLAND RL -1.5 -115

Good Luck,

Tommy Mac