Strasburg favored over Lee

Philadelphia (45-57) at Washington (61-40), 7:05 p.m. EDT

The Philadelphia Phillies haven’t been in last place this late in a season in nearly 10 years, finding themselves in an unfamiliar position at the non-waiver trade deadline after winning the last five NL East titles.

Stephen Strasburg and the division-leading Washington Nationals aren’t exactly used to their current standing, either.

Washington will send Strasburg to the mound Tuesday night seeking a 14th victory in the last 18 meetings with visiting Philadelphia, which may have a different look after the deadline.

The Phillies (45-57) haven’t finished below .500 since going 80-81 in 2002 and haven’t occupied the cellar of the East this late since Aug. 12 of that year. They are coming off being swept by Atlanta following Sunday’s 6-2 defeat, getting outscored 14-4 in the three-game series.

Philadelphia enters this three-game set trailing Washington by 16 1/2 games, and likely will be looking to make moves before the trade deadline, which will have passed by the time Strasburg takes the hill.

“I think where we’re at speaks for itself,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “I guess there’s going to be a lot of thinking going on, evidently. We’ll wait and see.”

Shane Victorino, one subject of trade rumors, isn’t ready to move on.

“We’ve got 60 games. That’s my goal, to play 60 games here,” Victorino said. “I’m wearing a `P’ on my hat, `Phillies’ across my chest. I want it to be here.”

Washington, meanwhile, may be looking to make a move to bolster its chances of reaching the postseason for the first time since the Montreal Expos made the franchise’s only playoff appearance in 1981.

The Nationals (61-40) have won eight of nine after Sunday’s 11-10, 11-inning victory at Milwaukee. Michael Morse hit a tying two-run homer in the ninth, then drove in a pair of runs with a double in the 11th.

“It’s crazy because you never know what this game has in store until the last out,” Morse said.

Strasburg (11-4, 2.76 ERA) will look to keep Washington rolling.

The right-hander had his longest outing in more than a month Wednesday, allowing one run and four hits in seven innings of a 5-2 win over the New York Mets. Manager Davey Johnson was critical of his ace after he gave up four runs in 5 1-3 innings in Washington’s loss to Atlanta on July 20.

Strasburg responded with one of his more dominant outings, striking out 11.

“Once the lights are on and you’re facing another team, you want to go out there to make your stuff really dirty,” Strasburg said. “It’s something where I think when I take a step back and relax and let it happen instead of forcing the issue it helps out.”

Strasburg wasn’t at his best against the Phillies on May 4 when he allowed three runs in six innings, but the Nationals escaped with a 4-3 victory in 11 innings in the teams’ first meeting of the season.

Washington has won 13 of the last 17 matchups – a run that started with a 10-2 win over Cliff Lee on May 31, 2011.

Another subject of trade rumors, Lee (1-6, 3.95) is scheduled to take the hill again Tuesday after he tied career highs by allowing 12 hits and four homers while surrendering six runs over seven innings of Philadelphia’s 7-6 win over Milwaukee last Tuesday.

The left-hander had gone 1-1 with a 2.05 ERA in his previous three outings. He’s lost his last two starts with a 5.84 ERA versus Washington.

Nats shortstop Danny Espinosa, hitting .315 since the All-Star break, is 7 for 10 with three homers against Lee.

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