Eflin, Phillies open series against visiting Nationals

The Philadelphia Phillies start a six-game homestand Monday night, hoping to put a rough stretch behind them and close the gap in two playoff races.

The Phillies, who are three games behind the Atlanta Braves in the National League East and two games back for the second NL wild-card spot, begin a three-game series against the Washington Nationals on Monday. The teams met for three games in Washington last week.

Stephen Strasburg (6-7, 4.23 ERA) opposes Zach Eflin (9-4, 3.93) on Monday night in a repeat pitching matchup from the Nationals-Phillies game last Wednesday.

The Phillies (70-60) lost that series to the Nationals last week, and they have not won a series since sweeping the Miami Marlins in early August. Philadelphia has lost six of its last eight games and 12 of 19.

However, the Phillies were 8-3 winners over the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday and clubbed four home runs.

That included the 22nd homer of the season from third baseman Maikel Franco. One of those 22 long balls for Franco came last week against Strasburg, a pitcher Franco has hit well in his career. Against the Nationals right-hander, Franco is batting .318 with two homers and a .966 OPS in 22 at-bats.

Franco’s homer was one of two Strasburg surrendered last week in his first start in more than a month. Strasburg, who was on the disabled list with a neck injury, gave up five runs and seven hits and struck out seven in four innings.

“It’s a work in progress,” Strasburg told reporters after the outing. “I obviously missed a while, so I’ll learn some things from (this start) and take it into the next one.”

Strasburg, who also missed time this season because of shoulder inflammation, will make his 16th start of the year. He had a 3.12 ERA in his 11 starts before the injury but has an 8.83 ERA in his four starts since first hitting the disabled list in June.

Strasburg is 10-2 with a 2.48 ERA and 0.896 WHIP in 22 career starts against the Phillies. He has a 1.45 ERA in eight starts at Citizens Bank Park.

The Nationals (65-66), who have won the NL East in each of the last two seasons, have seen their playoff chances narrow in recent weeks. Washington is 5-9 in its last 14 games and sits 8 1/2 games back in the division.

The Nationals finally found some offense Sunday and are hoping for some carryover in Philadelphia. Washington was shut out in its previous three consecutive games, starting Thursday against the Phillies, but came alive for a 15-0 win over the New York Mets on Sunday. The Nationals scored 14 of the 15 runs in the eighth and ninth innings.

They had similar success against Eflin last week.

Eflin, a right-hander, allowed five runs (four earned) and 10 hits in 3 1/3 innings last week. It was the second shortest start of the season for Eflin, who has a 5.22 ERA in his last five starts.

He owns a 6.48 ERA in two career starts against Washington.

The Phillies are 7-6 so far this season against the Nationals. The teams have six games remaining this season, all at Citizens Bank Park.