Two veteran pitchers looking forward to the week ahead for different reasons are scheduled to lock horns Sunday afternoon when the visiting Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Nationals complete their season series.
The Phillies (85-73) used an 8-2 win over the Nationals (55-103) in the second game of a double-header Saturday to move one game ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers (84-74) in their battle for the third National League wild-card spot.
After the Phillies wrap up their series in Washington on Sunday, they finish with three games at Houston. The Brewers have all home games remaining – one Sunday against the Miami Marlins and three starting Monday against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
If there’s a soft spot in Philadelphia’s final four games, it comes Sunday against the losingest pitcher on the losingest team in the NL.
In what is expected to be his final start of the season, Nationals left-hander Patrick Corbin (6-18, 6.08) will be attempting to avoid becoming baseball’s first 19-game loser since Chris Archer and James Shields in 2016.
The last time it happened in franchise history was when Steve Rogers lost 22 games for the Montreal Expos in 1974.
Corbin was pulled three batters into his last start against the Atlanta Braves on Sept. 20 because of back spasms. He missed just one start and has been cleared to return on the eve of a long-awaited offseason.
The 33-year-old has lost all three starts against the Phillies this year, roughed up for 13 earned runs in 9 2/3 innings. He allowed two homers apiece to Kyle Schwarber and Rhys Hoskins in those games, while J.T. Realmuto went 4-for-6 with a homer and Matt Vierling 3-for-6 with a homer.
He has made 18 career starts against Philadelphia, going 6-8 with a 4.57 ERA.
Corbin was not happy when it was suggested his missed start was an attempt to avoid a 20-loss season.
“I couldn’t care less about that,” he said. “I try to win every day. I’ll go out there and take the ball no matter what. Just go out there and compete.”
Phillies right-hander Zack Wheeler (11-7, 2.92) hasn’t done much of that of late. He has made just two relatively short starts since missing a month with right forearm tendinitis.
Attempting to regain his form with hopes of using it in the postseason, Wheeler progressed from four to six innings in the two starts, but from just 58 to 62 pitches. He remains winless in his last four starts, going 0-2 with a 4.64 ERA, and hasn’t registered a win since Aug. 9 against Miami.
The 32-year-old breezed to a 10-1 win at Washington on June 16 in his only previous start against the Nationals this season, going seven innings and allowing four hits. He has gone 9-14 with a 4.44 ERA in his career against the Nationals in 27 starts.
“He’s our guy,” Bryce Harper said of Wheeler. “Every time he goes out there, we have a chance to win.”
The Phillies have won two of the first three in the series. They arrived in Washington on a five-game losing streak.
–Field Level Media