Phillies-Nationals Preview

Dealt twice in July over the past three seasons, Cliff Lee isn’t

changing addresses after the 2012 trade deadline. Two-thirds of the

Philadelphia Phillies’ starting outfield is.

After unloading Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino earlier Tuesday

following four disappointing months, the visiting Phillies send Lee

to the hill to oppose Stephen Strasburg and the Washington

Nationals in the opener of this three-game set.

The Phillies (45-57) haven’t been in last place this late in a

season in nearly 10 years, and after being swept in Atlanta over

the weekend – they’re now 16 1/2 games behind first-place

Washington and 13 out in the wild-card race – general manager Ruben

Amaro decided to make some moves.

Amaro first sent center fielder and pending free agent Victorino

to the Los Angeles Dodgers for two pitchers, then shipped Pence to

San Francisco for outfielder Nate Schierholtz and two minor

leaguers.

Victorino and Pence have made a combined four All-Star

appearances over the past four seasons and combined for 26 homers

and 99 RBIs in 2012. One-time top prospect Domonic Brown was called

up from Triple-A Lehigh Valley following the moves.

Washington (61-40), meanwhile, was quiet at the deadline,

passing on making a move to improve its chances of reaching the

postseason for the first time since the Montreal Expos made the

franchise’s only playoff appearance in 1981.

The Nationals haven’t looked like they need any sort of help

lately, winning eight of nine after Sunday’s 11-10, 11-inning

victory at Milwaukee. Michael Morse hit a tying two-run homer in

the ninth, then drove in a pair of runs with a double in the

11th.

“It’s crazy because you never know what this game has in store

until the last out,” Morse said.

Strasburg (11-4, 2.76 ERA) will look to keep Washington

rolling.

The right-hander had his longest outing in more than a month

Wednesday, allowing one run and four hits in seven innings of a 5-2

win over the New York Mets. Manager Davey Johnson was critical of

his ace after he gave up four runs in 5 1-3 innings in Washington’s

loss to Atlanta on July 20.

Strasburg responded with one of his more dominant outings,

striking out 11.

“Once the lights are on and you’re facing another team, you want

to go out there to make your stuff really dirty,” Strasburg said.

“It’s something where I think when I take a step back and relax and

let it happen instead of forcing the issue it helps out.”

Strasburg wasn’t at his best against the Phillies on May 4 when

he allowed three runs in six innings, but the Nationals escaped

with a 4-3 victory in 11 innings in the teams’ first meeting of the

season.

Washington has won 13 of the last 17 matchups – a run that

started with a 10-2 win over Lee on May 31, 2011.

Staying put for now after being shipped away at the 2009 and ’10

deadlines – once to Philadelphia – Lee (1-6, 3.95) is coming off a

rough outing. He tied career highs by allowing 12 hits and four

homers while surrendering six runs over seven innings of

Philadelphia’s 7-6 win over Milwaukee last Tuesday.

The left-hander had gone 1-1 with a 2.05 ERA in his previous

three outings. He’s lost his last two starts with a 5.84 ERA versus

Washington.

Nats shortstop Danny Espinosa, hitting .315 since the All-Star

break, is 7 for 10 with three homers against Lee.