While the Phillies and Nationals have been perennial rivals at the big league level, this season saw them battle for a championship in the Eastern League finals, with the Senators coming out on top by a count of 3 games to 1. Both Reading and Harrisburg finished in first place in their respective divisions, with the Reading Fightin’ Phils holding on to win the East by two games over Colorado affiliate Hartford. The Senators won the West by a wide margin of 7 games, setting the teams up to meet in the single round finals.
The Phils jumped on Harrisburg starter, Carson Swilling (Nationals #7 prospect) in the first game en route to a 4-1 lead in the top of the 3rd. The Senators got 2 in the bottom of the 3rd to get the game closer at 4-3, but Reading went on to score 2 in the 6th and 2 in the 7th to put the game out of reach. The final score was 8-3 as Phil’s starter Ben Abram threw 7.2 solid innings to hold the high powered Harrisburg offense to 3 runs.
Nationals 2022 9th round pick, Collin Witzke (9th rated Nationals prospect) was dominant in game 2 to give the Senators a series tie. Witzke threw 7 innings, allowing 1 run on 5 hits and striking out 10 Phils. 2024 minor league star Carson Applegate (4.5 WAR over two levels) was lost for 6 weeks after suffering a partially torn labrum in a collision at the base.
The Senators followed up a strong game 2 with an even stronger game 3. Malvin Pena took the mound and gave up only an unearned run over 7.1 innings. The offense scored 9 runs, led by CF prospect Franyel Baez (acquired from Arizona in the Nick Gordon trade) who went 4 for 5 with a home run and 3 RBIs. Baez posted a great season for the Senators, finishing with a 3.2 WAR and 20 home runs while playing elite defense in center field.
With the club leading the best of 5 series 2 games to 1, game 4 turned into a closeout game and the Senators had their best player (and perhaps the systems best starting pitcher) Andry Lara on the mound. Lara sure did not disappoint, pitching a complete game shutout, giving up just 4 hits with no walks in an efficient 92 pitch outing to close out the championship series. The offense put up 4 runs with a balanced attack and the Senators celebrated their victory on the Phils home field.
Series/Season Notes: Andry Lara took home the series MVP trophy with his dominant closeout performance. Lara will lead an impressive group of National AA players next season as they see time in AAA. Dylan Lina (26 HR with a ridiculous +16.9 ZR at SS), Franyel Baez (20 HRs with a +5.6 ZR in CF), Zach Arnold (4.6 WAR with an +11.6 ZR at 2B) and Carson Applegate (4.4 combined WAR with a +9.6 combined ZR at 3B) are all high-upside prospects that the Nationals are excited about heading into 2025.