Nationals hope to rev up offense vs. Phillies

Since their last encounter with the Philadelphia Phillies, the Washington Nationals did not do much offensively.

In fact, they did not score.

After going scoreless for two games with the Tampa Bay Rays, the Nationals hope to get their offense going Thursday night in the opener of a four-game series against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.

The Nationals rallied late to beat the Phillies on Sunday night but then mustered five hits and struck out 23 times in Tampa Bay. After the low output, Washington heads into Philadelphia with nine losses in 12 games and hopes to be refreshed following a day off on Wednesday.

“We’re in a little bit of a funk right now,” Washington manager Dave Martinez told reporters following Tuesday’s 1-0 loss. “This day off couldn’t come soon enough. We’ve had a rough go with our schedule here the last few days, so a little break will do the boys right.”

It is not about to get easier for the Nationals, though.

They will face Phillies ace Aaron Nola for the second time in four games on Thursday night. Right-hander Tanner Roark will be on the mound for Washington, making his second consecutive start against Philadelphia.

Nola (9-2, 2.58 ERA), well on his way to his first All-Star appearance, pitched six strong innings against the Nationals last Saturday. The righty gave up two runs on four hits and three walks and struck out five in a 5-3 Phillies win.

Nola, 26, has pitched at least six innings in 13 of his 16 starts this season and has allowed two earned runs or less in 12 of those games. His 1.016 WHIP ranked fifth in the National League as of Wednesday.

Nola has faced the Nationals 11 times in his career — the most of any opponent for the fourth-year major leaguer. He is 2-4 with a 4.35 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 60 innings in those starts.

Roark (3-8, 4.27) also has plenty of experience against the Phillies. He is 6-8 with a 4.34 ERA in 19 career games against the Nationals’ divisional rival. But Roark’s last outing against Philadelphia did not go well.

The 31-year-old had seven strikeouts, but he gave up six runs on seven hits and four walks last Friday in a 12-2 defeat. Before the loss to the Phillies, Roark gave up four runs on eight hits in four innings against the Toronto Blue Jays on June 17.

“The last two starts, I’ve left the bullpen out to dry, and I’m not happy about it,” Roark told MLB.com after his last start. “Just overall a bad start again. But I’ve got to stay optimistic. I found something in there. So, you’ve got to take a positive out of a negative all the time.”

The Phillies snapped a three-game losing streak with a 3-0 win over the New York Yankees on Wednesday night.

At 42-36, Philadelphia enters the series a game ahead of Washington for second place in the National League East. The Phillies are 2.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves for the top spot in the division.

The Phillies took two of three against the Nationals last weekend. The teams have split six head-to-head meetings in 2018 — all of which were at Nationals Park.