But Johnson downplays its importance, sort of

The Washington Nationals will throw their three best pitchers at the Philadelphia Phillies and catch the visitors at a good time in their rotation in their three-game series this weekend.

On Friday night, Stephen Strasburg (2-0, 1.13 ERA) faces right-hander Kyle Kendrick (0-2, 6.95 ERA). On Saturday afternoon, Gio Gonzalez (2-1, 1.82 ERA) takes on right-hander Vance Worley (2-1, 1.97 ERA). On Sunday night (ESPN), Jordan Zimmerman (1-2, 1.89) matches up with lefty Cole Hamels (3-1, 2.78 ERA).

Phillies ace Roy Halladay pitched Wednesday night at Atlanta and 1A ace Cliff Lee is on the disabled list.

With the Philles (12-13) off to a slow start this is an opportunity for the Nats (15-9) to put some space between themselves and the N.L. East favorites. But Washington manager Davey Johnson was quick to remind that it’s only May and it’s a long season.

“They’re all the same to me. They all count,” Johnson said. “But it’s division and it’s the perennial best team in the league. And it’s how you stack up. So it’ll have a little more significance than just a regular game … It doesn’t go unnoticed. If we want to win this division, you gotta beat Philadelphia No. 1 and Atlanta No. 2, and all the rest of them.

With so few Nats having played for contending teams, an early series might mean more for their confidence. But Johnson said experience isn’t realty a factor.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re young or you’re old,” Johnson said. “It was a big game last night because we were playing the Western Division champs. You want to see if you measure up.”