- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 7, 2017

The magic number for the Washington Nationals is six.

That’s the combination for the Nationals to clinch the National League East. Washington begins a four-game series Thursday against the division’s last-place Philadelphia Phillies.

Thursday’s game marks the beginning of a 10-game homestand that concludes Sept. 17 against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Phillies, 53-86, are tied for the second-worst run differential in baseball at -119.

Somehow, Philadelphia and Washington haven’t met since May and the season series has been competitive. The Nationals are just 7-5 this year against the Phillies after going 14-5 in 2016.

Nationals player to watch: Daniel Murphy

Murphy struggled in August, batting .263, his worst month of the season. So far through September, Murphy is hitting .368 and has a 1.165 OPS in five games. Murphy has been one of the Nationals’ core contributors who hasn’t missed significant time with an injury this season. He’s appeared in 127 of 139 games, and that includes scheduled rest.

Pitching matchups

Thursday: Philadelphia’s Aaron Nola vs. Tanner Roark (11-9, 4.48 ERA)

Friday: Philadelphia’s Jake Thompson vs. Max Scherzer (13-5, 2.19 ERA)

Saturday: Philadelphia’s Mark Leiter vs. Edwin Jackson (5-4, 3.62 ERA)

Sunday: Philadelphia’s Ben Lively vs. TBD

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