Jayson Werth helped Philadelphia win the 2008 World Series and capture the last four NL East titles. In the offseason, he left the Phillies, who again have championship aspirations, to join Washington and help turn around a franchise that has finished last in the East six of the last seven years.
To become a contender, however, the Nationals need to end their struggles against Philadelphia.
In his first game against his former team, Werth looks to lead Washington to a rare win over the Phillies in the series opener at Nationals Park on Tuesday night.
Werth signed a seven-year, $126 million contract with the Nationals (4-5) in December after batting .296 with 27 homers, 85 RBIs and an NL-best 46 doubles for Philadelphia in 2010.
The deal seemed large for a player with only one All-Star appearance, and the Phillies (7-2) didn't make much of an effort to keep him.
Werth is off to a slow start with his new team, batting .200 with a solo homer, three doubles and seven strikeouts. Although Washington is still waiting for Werth to heat up, the team is starting to turn things around.
The Nationals defeated the Mets 7-3 in 11 innings Sunday for their third victory in four games after opening 1-4.
"Perception isn't changed overnight. Hopefully this team will be the team that can change the perception in Washington, D.C., around the league and around the country," Werth told MLB.com. "It's going to take winning to change that."
Building on the modest success, however, likely won't be easy with the Phillies coming to town.
Philadelphia went 12-6 versus the Nationals last season and is 27-9 against them since 2009.
Ryan Howard led the Phillies against Washington in 2010, batting .310 with three homers and 14 RBIs in 15 games. Werth also played a big role, hitting .368 with five home runs and 13 RBIs.
Howard is off to a fast start this year, batting .361 with two home runs and 11 RBIs, and Shane Victorino is also coming on strong.
Victorino had three hits and his first homer of the season in a 3-0 win over Atlanta on Sunday, his fifth straight multihit game. The leadoff hitter has batted .565 with eight runs as Philadelphia has won four of five.
"Shane is hot," Charlie Manuel told the Phillies' official website.
Victorino didn't have much luck against Washington last season, batting .207 in 15 games. He also struggled badly at Nationals Park, hitting .091 with two singles in 22 at_bats.
Victorino has had some success against scheduled starter Livan Hernandez (0-1, 4.76 ERA), however, going 4 for 12 with a triple.
The Phillies counter with Joe Blanton (0-0, 14.54), who is looking to put an awful season debut behind him.
He was pounded for seven runs and 10 hits in 4 1-3 innings against the Mets on Wednesday, but the Phillies rallied to win 10-7.
The right-hander was 1-0 with a 3.79 ERA in three starts against Washington in 2010.
Hernandez hasn't faced the Phillies since 2009 and has made only three starts against them since 2006. He is 11-10 with a 3.60 ERA in 27 career starts versus Philadelphia.
The veteran right-hander had a shaky outing against Florida on Wednesday, allowing four runs, six hits and five walks in five innings of a 7-4 loss. He didn't get the decision.
The Nationals placed third baseman Ryan Zimmerman on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday with a strained abdominal muscle. Zimmerman, hitting .357 with a triple, homer and four RBIs in eight games, sat out Sunday.
The Associated Press News Service
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