The Washington Times - September 2, 2013, 03:24PM

PHILADELPHIA — About two weeks ago, Jayson Werth sat in the clubhouse at Wrigley Field and evaluated the Washington Nationals’ chances to make a late-season run at the playoffs.

He said then that, in his estimation, his team could maybe afford to lose about 10 more games. Maybe. And he acknowledged that even if they did that they’d still need a lot of help.

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Since then, the Nationals have lost just three times, meaning if Werth’s calculation is correct their margin for error is down to seven more losses before the end of the season. 

The Nationals opened for business on Monday 6.5 games back of the Cincinnati Reds in the race for the second wild card. By the time the Nationals arrived at Citizens Bank Park on Monday afternoon, the Reds finished off a 7-2 win over the St. Louis Cardinals and stretched that lead back to seven games before the first pitch of the Nationals’ game against the Phillies.

So that’s where they’ll begin. Seven games back, with roughly seven losses left in what their right fielder estimated they could afford. 

Coming off a thrilling comeback victory on Sunday night that helped the Nationals avoid being swept by the Mets, Stephen Strasburg takes the mound after throwing just 22 pitches in a rain-shortened start last week. It was the second time in his previous four starts that he’d lasted two innings or fewer due to weather or an ejection. In the other two, he’d thrown nine and 8.2 innings, respectively. 

Here are the full lineups:

Nationals

TBA

Phillies

Cesar Hernandez CF
Jimmy Rollins SS
Chase Utley 2B
Carlos Ruiz C
Kevin Frandsen 1B
Pete Orr 3B
John Mayberry LF
Roger Bernadina RF
Cole Hamels P