Though Bryce Harper is in his third season with the Phillies, it's still must-see TV anytime he returns to Nationals Park, where he spent the first seven years of his big league career.
Nationals fans continue to jeer the 2015 National League MVP anytime he steps to the plate, but it hasn't seemed to bother Harper, who's thrived when returning to D.C. as a visitor. Be sure to tune in for Thursday's series finale, which will be MLB.TV’s Free Game of the Day (Blackout restrictions apply, although live audio will still be available through MLB.TV in local markets.)
Here’s a quick breakdown of the matchup:
How they're doing
Phillies (20-17, 2nd in NL East)
Nationals (13-19, 5th in NL East)
The Phillies have had an up-and-down start to 2021, racing out to a 5-1 start before later finding themselves two games below .500 at 13-15. They've won seven of nine since, and enter this matchup three games above .500 and just one game behind the first-place Mets. The Nationals, meanwhile, haven't been above .500 since starting 1-0, and they've lost seven of their last eight games after working their way back to 12-12.
The matchup on the mound
Phillies: Zach Eflin (2-1, 3.38 ERA)
Nationals: Patrick Corbin (1-3, 7.36 ERA)
Eflin has been a solid No. 3 option behind Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler this season. The right-hander has completed at least six innings in each of his seven starts, while allowing two runs or fewer in five of those outings. Corbin, meanwhile, has been better of late after getting off to a disastrous start. He has a 3.52 ERA over his last four outings and he's completed at least six innings in three of the four -- a far cry from his first two starts when he posted a 21.32 ERA after allowing 16 runs (15 earned) in 6 1/3 innings.
The player(s) to watch
Harper is always worth keeping an eye on, particularly when he returns to Nationals Park. He's hitting .328 with five home runs, a .494 OBP and an 1.131 OPS in 18 games at Nats Park since joining the Phillies.
Of course, you can't overlook Juan Soto either. The 22-year-old phenom is still looking to regain his stroke at the plate, having gone just 4-for-21 (.190) since recovering from a strained left shoulder injury that put him on the IL for two weeks. After hitting .378 with a 1.033 OPS over his first 10 games this season, Soto is hitting just .147 with a .598 OPS since.
Don't forget about them
Harper and Soto may be the biggest names, but Trea Turner is also one of the most entertaining players to watch in Major League Baseball. He's not only arguably the fastest player in the Majors, but he already has eight home runs to pair with his seven stolen bases.
Veteran stars Andrew McCutchen and Ryan Zimmerman also deserve a mention here. McCutchen is heating up after a slow start, hitting .355 with three homers over his last eight games. As for Zimmerman, the 36-year-old is hitting .302 with an .889 OPS this season.
Harper hasn't been picky about where he hits the ball at his former home, scattering hits to all fields over the past few years. Here's a look at each of his hits as a visitor at Nationals Park:
Phillies superstar catcher J.T. Realmuto departed Tuesday's series opener after taking a foul ball off his left knee, and he did not play in Wednesday's extra-inning victory. Manager Joe Girardi said Realmuto is just day to day with a bruised left knee. Meanwhile, Didi Gregorius will likely miss Thursday's game after departing Wednesday's contest with stiffness in his right elbow.
Number of note
The Phils enter Thursday's series finale with not one, but two star players on the verge of joining the 100-homer club. Both Realmuto and Rhys Hoskins are sitting at exactly 99 career homers.