It's been a while since the Phillies won a series against a National League East opponent. But if they beat the Nationals in Tuesday's game at Citizens Bank Park, they'll secure their first series victory vs. a divisional foe since mid-June.
There might not be a better pitcher to take on that task than Cole Hamels.
His chances at an eighth win are plenty high considering how well he's performed when facing the Nats in his career. Lifetime, he's 15-7 with a 2.54 ERA in 30 starts against them.
Of all the divisional rivals, Washington seems to bring out the best in Hamels. The only other NL East team against whom he owns a winning record is Atlanta, at 15-8 -- his ERA in 33 starts against them, though, is 3.34.
But poor run support has derailed many of Hamels' best efforts this season. A perfect example is his first three August outings, across which he was 0-1 despite only giving up five runs (four earned) in 21 innings and posting three quality starts.
He lasted seven innings in each of those performances but the Phillies didn't reward him. They did, however, manage to back him up when he last toed the rubber Wednesday against the Mariners. Even though he exited after the fifth inning by running up his pitch count to 99 and yielding three runs on nine hits, the lefty earned his seventh win in his 23rd start of the season.
The Nationals, meanwhile, will turn to Gio Gonzalez. He recorded his first quality start since July 26 when he faced the D-backs on Thursday. Gonzalez surrendered no runs on four hits over seven innings, thanks in part to rediscovered command of his curveball. But he didn't get a win because Arizona's Wade Miley also shut out the Nationals, who eventually got to the bullpen for a walk-off victory, their 10th win in a row.
If there's anyone who can commiserate with Hamels' lack of run support, it's Gonzalez -- of late, anyway. In his last 33 1/3 innings spanning six starts, Gonzalez has received two runs of offensive support while in the game. Granted, the southpaw allowed 15 earned runs and opponents hit .273 against him.
"It was fun just being a part of something that is going on," Gonzalez said following Thursday's game. "We have had such great pitching lately. Our bullpen has been fantastic. ... I just wanted to try to blend in with the rest of the rotation, try not to stick out like a sore thumb."
Nationals: Cabrera likely to start vs. Hamels
Second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera could return to the lineup on Tuesday, two days after experiencing tightness in his right rib cage that forced him to leave Sunday's game. After doing some early hitting on Monday, manager Matt Williams said Cabrera seemed fine.
Cabrera proved he was OK when he got a chance to pinch-hit in the ninth inning of Monday night's 3-2 loss. He singled on a grounder to right field to put any lingering doubts about the injury to rest.
"I wanted to stay away from him if at all possible tonight to give him a day to make sure," Williams said. "But we knew after batting practice. He went through a full BP and swung from both sides and had no issues. So he should be good to go."
Since joining Washington, the switch-hitter has a .264 average, five doubles, a triple, two homers and 10 RBIs. He's also walked 12 times, giving him a .365 on-base percentage.
Phillies: Starting to consider options for September callups
The September roster expansion is just around the corner, but the Phillies are still debating which of their prospects will join them in the big leagues when that time comes.
One of the possibilities is their No. 3 prospect, Maikel Franco, a corner infielder who had a .313 second-half batting average with Triple-A Lehigh Valley entering Monday. However, with third base manned by Cody Asche and first manned by Ryan Howard, it might be difficult for Franco to get playing time.
• Philadelphia has not won three straight series since winning four in a row from July 2-14, 2013.
• Injured reliever Mike Adams will begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Tuesday.
• With Monday's loss, the Nationals dropped to 20-23 in series openers. However, they have overcome a series-opening setback to claim a series victory five times this year (all since July 4).
Maria Torres is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.