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Since their last encounter with the Philadelphia Phillies [url=http://www.dolphinscheapstore.com/kenny-stills-jersey-cheap]Kenny Stills Jersey[/url] , the Washington Nationals did not do much offensively.

In fact, they did not score.

After going scoreless for two games with the Tampa Bay Rays, the Nationals hope to get their offense going Thursday night in the opener of a four-game series against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.

The Nationals rallied late to beat the Phillies on Sunday night but then mustered five hits and struck out 23 times in Tampa Bay. After the low output, Washington heads into Philadelphia with nine losses in 12 games and hopes to be refreshed following a day off on Wednesday.

“We’re in a little bit of a funk right now,” Washington manager Dave Martinez told reporters following Tuesday’s 1-0 loss. “This day off couldn’t come soon enough. We’ve had a rough go with our schedule here the last few days, so a little break will do the boys right.”

It is not about to get easier for the Nationals, though.

They will face Phillies ace Aaron Nola for the second time in four games on Thursday night. Right-hander Tanner Roark will be on the mound for Washington, making his second consecutive start against Philadelphia.

Nola (9-2, 2.58 ERA), well on his way to his first All-Star appearance [url=http://www.dolphinscheapstore.com/ryan-tannehill-jersey-cheap]Ryan Tannehill Jersey[/url] , pitched six strong innings against the Nationals last Saturday. The righty gave up two runs on four hits and three walks and struck out five in a 5-3 Phillies win.

Nola, 26, has pitched at least six innings in 13 of his 16 starts this season and has allowed two earned runs or less in 12 of those games. His 1.016 WHIP ranked fifth in the National League as of Wednesday.

Nola has faced the Nationals 11 times in his career — the most of any opponent for the fourth-year major leaguer. He is 2-4 with a 4.35 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 60 innings in those starts.

Roark (3-8, 4.27) also has plenty of experience against the Phillies. He is 6-8 with a 4.34 ERA in 19 career games against the Nationals’ divisional rival. But Roark’s last outing against Philadelphia did not go well.

The 31-year-old had seven strikeouts, but he gave up six runs on seven hits and four walks last Friday in a 12-2 defeat. Before the loss to the Phillies, Roark gave up four runs on eight hits in four innings against the Toronto Blue Jays on June 17.

“The last two starts, I’ve left the bullpen out to dry, and I’m not happy about it,” Roark told MLB.com after his last start. “Just overall a bad start again. But I’ve got to stay optimistic. I found something in there. So, you’ve got to take a positive out of a negative all the time.”

The Phillies snapped a three-game losing streak with a 3-0 win over the New York Yankees on Wednesday night.

At 42-36 [url=http://www.chargerscheapstore.com/caleb-sturgis-jersey-cheap]Caleb Sturgis Jersey[/url] , Philadelphia enters the series a game ahead of Washington for second place in the National League East. The Phillies are 2.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves for the top spot in the division.

The Phillies took two of three against the Nationals last weekend. The teams have split six head-to-head meetings in 2018 — all of which were at Nationals Park.

It would be a bit disingenuous to say the fate of the Kansas City Chiefs this season rests on the strong right arm of Patrick Mahomes II considering the second-year pro has started all of one NFL game.

Still, that's how most people view the Chiefs as they report to training camp.

Yet the reality is there are a number of question marks as the club packs its trucks and makes the hour-long drive north to Missouri Western State University.

Mahomes may be the biggest, but the way these questions sort out will ultimately determine whether a franchise that went to the playoffs four times in five years under quarterback Alex Smith can win a third straight AFC West title.

There are holes everywhere on defense. There is a new offensive coordinator and a few new assistant coaches. There is a leadership and experience void after the departure of longtime linebackers Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson. And some crucial players are coming off major injuries.

In short, the Chiefs could be very good this season. Or they could be very bad.

Good luck trying to peg where they end up.

"We have a lot of new faces and we welcome new faces," Chiefs coach Andy Reid conceded, "but they're learning and they've got great energy."

As the Chiefs' rookies, quarterbacks and selected veterans report to camp on Sunday, here are some of the crucial story lines to watch throughout August and into September:

MAHOMES THE MAN: The team turns to the former Texas Tech star after Smith was traded to Washington this past offseason. The Chiefs traded up to select him 10th overall then gave him a redshirt season to learn the ropes, only to watch him dazzle in a Week 17 win at Denver when Smith and most of the starters got the weekend off.

The Chiefs have tried to help him out. They signed Sammy Watkins to pair with speedster Tyreek Hill in a potentially lethal wide receiver combo, and tight end Travis Kelce and running back Kareem Hunt give Kansas City perhaps the most talented skill position group in the league.

"Me and Patrick have a great bond. I feel like he is going to do great [url=http://www.chiefscheapstore.com/kendall-fuller-jersey-cheap]Kendall Fuller Jersey[/url] ," said Hunt, the NFL rushing champion as a rookie last season. "He definitely already has a leader role and he is just able to go out there and make big plays. I am excited to see him get out there."

CORNERBACK COMPETITION: The Chiefs traded talented malcontent Marcus Peters to the Rams, hoping the improved locker-room atmosphere would offset the loss of a skilled playmaker. Now, the Chiefs will have to find two new starting cornerbacks after also releasing veteran Terrance Mitchell.

Kendall Fuller came over in the Smith trade and is the front-runner for one job, and Steven Nelson is the leading candidate at the other, provided he can stay healthy. But keep an eye on Raiders castoff David Amerson, former third-round pick Will Redmond and rookies Tremon Smith and Arrion Springs.

Smith was the Chiefs' sixth-round pick out of Central Arkansas while Springs impressed during the team's voluntary summer workouts as an undrafted free agent out of Oregon.

INJURY ISLAND: The Chiefs will rely heavily on Eric Berry to lead this season, but they also need him to perform at a Pro Bowl level again after tearing his Achilles tendon in last season's opener.

Wide receiver Chris Conley will likewise be counted upon after a season-ending injury in Week 5.

NEW VOICES: Eric Bieniemy was promoted to offensive coordinator after Matt Nagy took the top job in Chicago, which means Mahomes will have a new voice in his ear. And a loud one, too. There are few coaches that have the ability to bark quite like the former NFL running back.

The Chiefs also have a new quarterbacks coach in Mike Kafka and decided to split the linebackers job between outside coach Mike Smith and inside coach Mark DeLeone.

OTHER JOBS: Backup jobs on offense are wide open: Jace Amaro and Tim Wright will compete for tight end time [url=http://www.dolphinscheapstore.com/bob-griese-jersey-cheap]Bob Griese Jersey[/url] , Spencer Ware and Damien Williams are fighting for time behind Hunt, and DeMarcus Robinson, Jehu Chesson, De'Anthony Thomas and undrafted rookie Byron Pringle are in the mix at wide receiver.

On defense, Derrick Nnandi and Xavier Williams are trying to replace Bennie Logan at nose tackle, and rookie Breeland Speaks should push Allen Bailey for the starting defensive end job.

In the defensive backfield, keep an eye on rookies Armani Watts and Dorian O'Daniel as they compete for the starting free safety job. Roster holdover Leon McQuay could also be in the mix.

"This organization is full of winners," defensive end Chris Jones said. "Everybody is eager to win and they are going to take the necessary steps to put the pieces together."

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