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Philly fireworks: HRs sink Phillies vs. Nats

MLB.com @ToddZolecki

PHILADELPHIA -- Cole Hamels is on the mind of Phillies fans lately because the World Series hero could be available in a trade.

Nothing that happened in Friday night's 17-7 loss to the Nationals at Citizens Bank Park changed that. Hamels would exhilarate a hungry and nostalgic fan base and send a signal to the players in the Phillies' clubhouse and the National League that the Phillies are taking another step forward. But it is unclear if the organization will prioritize starting pitching over other potential needs before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, like a bat on the left side of the infield or top-notch relievers.

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PHILADELPHIA -- Cole Hamels is on the mind of Phillies fans lately because the World Series hero could be available in a trade.

Nothing that happened in Friday night's 17-7 loss to the Nationals at Citizens Bank Park changed that. Hamels would exhilarate a hungry and nostalgic fan base and send a signal to the players in the Phillies' clubhouse and the National League that the Phillies are taking another step forward. But it is unclear if the organization will prioritize starting pitching over other potential needs before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, like a bat on the left side of the infield or top-notch relievers.

View Full Game Coverage

"I see it as one of the better rotations in baseball, right now as is," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said after the game. "The numbers suggest that it's one of the better rotations in baseball. It's still developing. Nick and Vince and Ef, these guys are still developing. They're going to take some bumps and bruises along the way, but we have all the talent we need in our rotation right now."

Phillies right-hander Nick Pivetta allowed seven runs in just 1 2/3 innings against the Nationals. He allowed seven hits, two walks and three of Washington's seven home runs in his second-shortest start of the season. (Pivetta allowed six runs in one inning May 4 against the Nationals at Nationals Park.) He fell to 4-7 with a 4.71 ERA.

In three starts against the Nationals this season, Pivetta is 0-2 with a 17.61 ERA. In 14 starts against everybody else, he is 4-5 with a 3.45 ERA.

Video: WSH@PHI: Soto belts an opposite-field 2-run dinger

"I've still got to execute my pitches. I didn't execute them tonight," Pivetta said about his struggles against the Nats.

The Phillies like Pivetta. They see immense potential in the young right-hander with excellent -- and sometimes overpowering -- stuff. He entered the game with a 3.22 xFIP, which ranked 13th out of 90 qualified starters in baseball, according to FanGraphs. It ranked one spot ahead of Aaron Nola, who is likely set for his first All-Star appearance in July, and who was 14th with a 3.26 xFIP.

Those numbers are mentioned because the Phillies have used FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) and its variations to illustrate the effectiveness and express their belief in its bullpen and pitchers.

In other words, it could tell fans how the Phillies value their pitchers beyond ERA.

Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez ranked 28th with a 3.66 xFIP. Jake Arrieta ranked 52nd with a 4.16 xFIP. Zach Eflin, who does not have enough innings to qualify, has a 3.71 xFIP.

Hamels? He ranked 49th with a 4.12 xFIP.

If the Phillies cannot swing a deal or are not interested in Hamels, the Phillies could look elsewhere for help. If they feel they need a left-handed starter, Blue Jays left-hander J.A. Happ has pitched well.

The Phillies also could use a third baseman or shortstop. The Royals' Mike Moustakas is a possibility. NBCSportsPhilly.com reported that the Royals have been scouting the Phillies' farm system recently.

A closer could help, if one does not emerge internally.

But a starter? A starter almost always makes sense. The Phillies acquired Joe Blanton in July 2008. He helped them win the World Series. They acquired Cliff Lee in July 2009 and Roy Oswalt in July 2010. Will there be another starter added this July? The performance of the team's young starters could determine that in the coming weeks.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
It starts rough: Pivetta set the tone early. He allowed a two-run home run to Trea Turner nine pitches into the game to hand the Nationals a 2-0 lead. Then three batters later, Pivetta allowed a two-run homer to Juan Soto to make it 4-0. Pivetta allowed a three-run homer to Anthony Rendon in the second.

Video: WSH@PHI: Rendon lifts an opposite-field 3-run homer

"I just left too many balls middle up," Pivetta said.

Neris' troubles continue: Hector Neris allowed three home runs in the ninth inning to raise his ERA to 6.90 in 33 appearances. The Phillies recalled Neris, who lost his job as closer last month, from Triple-A earlier this week. He struck out four in two scoreless innings since rejoining the Phillies. A night like Friday could be a blow to his confidence.

Video: WSH@PHI: Reynolds destroys homer to go back-to-back

"I'm sure it's difficult," Kapler said. "He's worked so hard to get back. He's had some flashes of brilliance. I'm sure he's discouraged by tonight's outing."

SOUND SMART
Phillies catcher Andrew Knapp is hitting .345 (10-for-29) with three doubles, two home runs and five RBIs in his last nine games.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Rhys Hoskins finished a 14-pitch at-bat against Nationals right-hander Erick Fedde with a two-run home run to left-center field in the fifth inning. The ball left his bat at 106.4 mph and travelled a projected 407 feet, according to Statcast™. Hoskins has been on a tear since he broke his jaw May 28 at Dodger Stadium, including a home run in each of his past three games.

"I love it," Hoskins said. "I think the longer the at-bat goes, the more chances I have to see a mistake."

Scott Kingery and Carlos Santana also homered for the Phillies.

Video: WSH@PHI: Santana lifts a towering 2-run homer to left

HE SAID IT
"It's one of the better at-bats I've ever seen." -- Kapler, on Hoskins' 14-pitch at-bat

UP NEXT
Velasquez (5-8, 4.69 ERA) is scheduled to face Nationals right-hander Jeremy Hellickson (2-0, 2.28 ERA) on Saturday night at 6:05 p.m. in the third game of a four-game series at Citizens Bank Park. In three starts since Velasquez allowed 10 runs in 3 2/3 innings against Milwaukee on June 8, he is 1-1 with a 3.79 ERA, striking out 21 and walking nine in 19 innings.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

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