PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies opened the 2014 season with the belief they could contend again in the National League East. They enter May a .500 team.
The Nationals hold the same belief, but they have a more recent track record of success. They won the NL East in 2012 and won 86 games last season, while the Phillies have not made the postseason since '11 and lost 89 games last year. The Nats enter this weekend's three-game series against the Phils at Citizens Bank Park with a 16-12 record. It should be a good early-season test for a pair of teams that believe they can challenge the Braves in the division.
Washington is third in the NL in runs per game (4.50) and on-base percentage (.328), while Philadelphia is fifth in the league in runs per game (4.12) and OBP (.315). The big difference between these two teams offensively is power. The Nationals' .415 slugging percentage is second in the NL, while the Phillies are 10th at .376.
The team's rotations have been fairly even, although Nationals starters have a sub-2.00 ERA and 84 strikeouts over the past 13 games. There has been no contest between bullpens. The Nats' bullpen boasts a 2.14 ERA, while the Phils' bullpen has a 4.84 ERA, which is the highest mark in the league.
Nationals: Frandsen returns to Philly
Kevin Frandsen led the NL in pinch-hits last season and hit .353 with a .920 OPS the past two seasons against left-handers, but the Phillies outrighted him from their 40-man roster in March because they felt they needed roster flexibility.
Frandsen opted for free agency and signed with the Nationals. He entered Thursday batting .289 with a .714 OPS.
Stephen Strasburg starts Friday for Washington. In his last start, he threw seven innings of shutout baseball against the Padres, fanning 11 -- his third double-digit strikeout game of the season. Lifetime vs. the Phillies, he's 2-1 with a 2.65 ERA.
Phillies: Rotation shuffled
Philadelphia had no games scheduled Monday and Thursday, then had Wednesday's game against the Mets postponed because of rain.
The three off-days allowed them to skip right-handers Kyle Kendrick's and Roberto Hernandez's turns in the rotation. The Phils will have Cliff Lee pitch Friday, A.J. Burnett pitch Saturday and Cole Hamels pitch Sunday in the series finale.
• Philadelphia and Majestic Athletic are having Phillies Jersey Day on Friday, which encourages fans to wear their Phils jerseys to work, school or that night's game against the Nationals. To keep up with Phillies Jersey Day via social media, follow and tweet @Phillies with #PhilliesJerseyDay.
• The Nats are 13-1 when scoring four or more runs, and 3-11 when scoring three or fewer runs.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.