Nationals-Phillies Preview

Even without one of their top players, the Philadelphia Phillies

can still put out an intimidating lineup.

This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, as long as Chase

Utley and Ryan Howard are still penciled in their regular

spots.

Off to their best start in 17 years, the surging Phillies look

to build on their highest-scoring game of the season and sweep

their second consecutive home series over the Washington Nationals

on Thursday.

Philadelphia’s potent offense appeared to take a hit Wednesday,

when shortstop Jimmy Rollins was placed on the 15-day disabled list

with a calf strain. The three-time All-Star and 2007 NL MVP, who is

batting .391 with eight runs scored, was injured during warmups

before Monday’s 7-4 home-opening victory over the Nationals.

Manager Charlie Manuel had to do some lineup juggling Wednesday,

and putting Shane Victorino in the leadoff spot helped provide more

than enough offense.

The Phillies (7-1) won 14-7, the sixth time they’ve plated at

least seven runs. The top four batters in the order – Victorino,

Placido Polanco, Utley and Howard – went a combined 10 for 18 with

12 RBIs and nine runs. Victorino finished with four hits and a

career-best five RBIs, and Utley hit two homers for Philadelphia,

off to its best start since opening 8-1 in its 1993 pennant-winning

season.

“That’s a great-hitting team,” Nationals manager Jim Riggleman

said. “We’ve got to keep the ball down. When they hit the ball in

the air in this ballpark, they’re going to kill you.”

Washington (3-5) has lost eight straight at Citizens Bank Park,

and 13 of 14 there. Utley and Howard have been instrumental to that

dominance.

Utley, who also homered Monday, is batting .413 with five home

runs, 16 RBIs and 19 runs in the last 13 home games against the

Nationals. Howard is hitting .320 with four homers and 17 RBIs in

the last 14.

Howard looks to continue that success against one of his

favorite pitchers.

The 2006 NL MVP is hitting .483 with two homers and three

doubles lifetime against scheduled starter Scott Olsen – Howard’s

highest average against any pitcher he has had at least 13 at-bats

against.

This will be Olsen’s season debut after missing half of 2009

because of a shoulder injury. The left-hander went 2-4 with a 6.03

ERA in 11 starts before undergoing surgery in July. He faced the

Phillies twice, going 1-1 with a 5.06 ERA.

Olsen made a minor league start Friday, allowing four runs and

eight hits in 6 1-3 innings for Triple-A Syracuse.

Philadelphia counters with J.A. Happ (1-0, 0.00 ERA), who is

hoping to go a bit deeper after struggling at times during his 2010

debut.

Happ went 10-4 with a 2.99 ERA in 23 starts as a rookie last

season, but allowed six hits and two walks with five strikeouts in

five innings of an 8-0 win at Houston on Friday. Although he kept

the Astros off the scoreboard, he threw 103 pitches.

“I am happy with it, but it would have been nice to have been a

little more economical,” the left-hander said

In his only career start against Washington on May 29, Happ gave

up three runs, three hits and three walks in 5 1/3 innings of a 5-4

win.