Philadelphia Phillies' right-hander A.J. Burnett entered tonight's game with a (3-6) record in 13 starts in Citizens Bank Park, as opposed to his (3-8) record in 14 starts on the road, with a 3.58 ERA in 88 IP at home, as opposed to his 5.31 ERA in 83 IP away from CBP, a 4.04 FIP, as opposed to his 4.22 road FIP, and a .213/.328/.365 line against in his fifth major league home, as opposed to his .268/.357/.444 away from the City of Brotherly Love.
Against the Nationals this season, heading into the opening game of the three-game set with Washington in Citizens Bank Park, Burnett was (0-2) in two starts in the nation's capital with a 10.56 ERA in 7 ⅔ IP in Nationals Park and (2-0) with a 1.98 ERA in two starts and 13 ⅔ IP in Philadelphia.
Burnett took the mound tonight winless in seven second-half starts at (0-6), with a 6.41 ERA and a .297/.383/.468 line against in 39 ⅓ IP over that stretch, though he'd received two runs or less of support in four of those seven starts and lost one-run games in two of the outings.
The 37-year-old veteran of 16 major league seasons was sharp tonight, however, and he continued to dominate Nats' hitters in the Phillies' home, striking out 12 in seven innings of work in which gave up just one run on a sixth inning home run by Anthony Rendon.
"Good curveball," Nats' skipper Matt Williams said after a 3-2 loss to Burnett and the Phillies.
"Curveball for strikes tonight. We want to be patient, but he didn't allow us to. He threw the fastball in the zone and threw his curveball for strikes too. So, he can be really good if he does that, so he was good tonight."
Tanner Roark allowed just two runs in six innings of work before he was lifted, and Rendon's home run in the top of the sixth had the Nationals within a run of tying it up.
Ian Desmond "doubled" to left-center off Burnett and off Domonic Brown's glove to start the top of the seventh.
Desmond was stranded at second three outs, and three pitches, later, however, when Bryce Harper, Wilson Ramos and Danny Espinosa went down in order on consecutive pitches in three unproductive at bats.
Williams wasn't critical of the approach from his hitters in that inning though.
"We want [Harper] to hit the ball to the right side," Williams explained. "He was late on a fastball and hit it in the air to left. The objective there is to hit it to his pull side, on the ground. Worst-case scenario.
"But he was just late on a heater. And then Wilson kind of did the same thing and then we're out of that inning. We're not going to bunt there. We were looking at Harper being up there and pulling a ball and he just didn't get it done."
Williams said Burnett managed to surprise Harper by turning the heat up a bit.
"[Harper] just got beat with it," the first-year skipper told reporters. "He's trying to hit the ball to his pull side, he just got surprised with a fastball. [Burnett] threw some fastballs tonight at 91, 92 and then he reached back a few times at 94, 95, so he pitched really well against us."
Carlos Ruiz homered off Jerry Blevins in the bottom of the seventh to give the Phillies a 3-1 lead and Jake Diekman and Jonathan Papelbon, who gave up a solo home run by Wilson Ramos in the ninth, finished the game and helped Burnett to his first win since July 11th... when he beat the Nationals at home in Citizens Bank Park.