5. Scherzer vs the Phillies Part Deux: Max Scherzer started against the Philadelphia Phillies last Sunday afternoon in the one game of the three-game set in Citizens Bank Park which the Washington Nationals were able to win.
The Nationals' 30-year-old right-hander gave up six hits, two walks and one earned run in six innings of work on the mound in which he struck out eight and threw a total of 102 pitches.
After the outing, a 4-3 Nationals' win, Scherzer told reporters that he struggled with his fastball command and didn't have good rhythm out of the windup.
"My fastball command was kind of inconsistent today," Scherzer explained, "but I thought I had good command of all my offspeed pitches. The changeup, cutter, slider, curveball, I felt like I was able to pitch with them the way I wanted to, so you take that and move forward and continue to keep doing what I'm trying to do."
Through two starts, the veteran of seven-plus seasons who signed a 7-year/$210M deal with Washington this winter was winless, with a 0.66 ERA, four walks (2.63 BB/9) and 16 Ks (10.54 K/9) in 13 ⅔ IP over which he's held opposing hitters from the Mets and Phillies to a combined .189/.246/.226 line.
In an MLB Network Radio interview this morning, Nats' skipper Matt Williams was asked what he wanted to see from the righty this time out?
"Just more of the same," WIlliams said.
"I mean, he's been really good the last two times out. He's got a lot of weapons. He's got a lot of different things that he can throw at a lineup. He's going to face these guys for the second consecutive time, so I'm sure there are adjustments [that are] going to be made on the other side.
"Max will do the same. But, he's a bulldog. Loves to go out there and compete. He's one of those guys that can be very, very special. So we're looking for more of the same from Max tonight. Just pound the zone like he does. Change speeds when he can and go get them again."
Scherzer gave up a leadoff single to left by Odubel Herrera in the first at bat of tonight's game, and a two-out single to center by Jeff Francoeur, but a 2-2 change to Cody Asche got a groundout to second that ended a 17-pitch frame.
Given a 3-0 lead to work with, Scherzer retook the mound and retired the side in order in the second, striking out two in a quick, 11-pitch frame that left him at 28 total.
Odubel Herrera tripled to right, off the high wall and out of Bryce Harper's reach with one down in the third, getting all of a 1-0 change from Scherzer. Freddy Galvis stepped in next and grounded out to second to bring Herrera in from third and make it 3-1 Nationals. A groundout to second by Chase Utley ended a 10-pitch inning. 38 pitches overall for Scherzer after three.
Scherzer collected Ks four and five in the fourth, retiring the Phillies in order in a 14-pitch frame. 52 total after four.
Darin Ruf singled to left with one down in the top of the fifth, but two outs later he was stranded at first. 11-pitch frame, 63 total.
With some help from a diving Dan Uggla at second, Scherzer retired the Phillies in order in a quick, 18-pitch, 1-2-3 sixth that left him at 81 pitches.
Cody Asche chased a 93 mph 2-2 heater up high away for a swinging K. No.8 for Scherzer. Carlos Ruiz reached on Ian Desmond's seventh error of the season, but Scherzer stranded him at first when he struck Darin Ruf out to end a 12-pitch frame. 93 total.
Scherzer came back out for the eighth and threw a quick, seven-pitch, 1-2-3 frame. 100 total.
• Max Scherzer's line: 8.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 9 Ks, 100 P, 70 S, 7/3 GO/FO.
4. O'Sullivan Again: Philadelphia skipper Ryne Sandberg told reporters that right-hander Sean O'Sullivan's ability to throw strikes in spot starts last season and again this Spring earned him the fifth spot on the Phillies' rotation.
In his first outing of the year, in last Sunday's series finale with the Washington Nationals, O'Sullivan gave up five hits, a walk and two earned runs over six innings of work on the mound in Citizens Bank Park in a 4-3 extra innings loss in which he received no decision.
Sandberg said afterwards that he saw enough from the 27-year-old, LA Angels' 2005 3rd Round pick to justify giving the pitcher a second turn in the rotation.
"O'Sullivan gave us a big lift today with his outing, with his length" Sandberg said. "And I thought he did a good job, really stayed away from the hitters and made some pitches. I believe he has another start in him."
O'Sullivan got the nod again tonight in the second game of the Phillies' four-game set in the nation's capital.
The first two Nationals' batters he faced reached base with Yunel Escobar lining a leadoff single to left field and Ian Desmond taking a fastball off the wrist and taking his base. One out later, Bryce Harper drove them both in, taking a 2-1 curve for a ride, 408ft+ to center for a three-run blast and a 3-0 lead.
After the Phillies got on the board with a run in the top of the fourth, O'Sullivan retired the Nationals in order in a quick, eight-pitch frame that left him at 51 overall after three.
Danny Espinosa took him deep for the second home run of the game in the fourth, however, taking a 2-1 sinker out to center for a solo home run and a 4-1 lead after four. O'Sullivan put two runners on, one intentionally in the bottom of the fifth, but stranded them both.
• Sean O'Sullivan's Line: 5.0 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 2 Ks, 2 HRs, 90 P, 53 S, 10/3 GO/FO.
3. Yunel Escobar's start: Yunel Escobar's home run off Cole Hamels on the first pitch of the left-hander's outing last night was the first first-pitch home run off Hamels in the southpaw's 277 career major league starts.
Escobar crushed the fastball from Hamels and gave a fan in the first few rows of the Red Porch seats a souvenir.
The home run left the veteran infielder, acquired from the Oakland A's this winter just a few days after the Athletics acquired him from the Tampa Bay Rays, 11 for 39 so far this season (.282/.364/.410) with two doubles, a home run, five walks and three Ks in 10 games with Washington.
Matt Williams was asked after last night's win what he's seen from Escobar and what's the infielder has provided the Nationals?
"Stability, right?," Williams asked rhetorically. "That's what I see. Just stable. Puts the ball in play.
"He's hitting one and two for us, take a little bit off of [Michael Taylor] in the leadoff role. He's stepped in there and done great. He just knows how to play the game."
Escobar started the bottom of the first with a single tonight, lining an 0-1 fastball to left to start the home-half of the frame. 12 for 40. He scored on Bryce Harper's three-run home run.
Escobar was 1 for 3 with a run scored after he grounded out to end the fourth, and he pulled up after crossing the first base bag, holding his groin, and left the game between innings. #DOOOOM
2. Turning Point(s): Sean O'Sullivan limited the Nationals to two runs on five hits last time out against Washington in Citizens Bank Park, but before he could get out of a 31-pitch first tonight in Nats Park, he and the Phillies were down 3-0 after Bryce Harper flat crushed a hanging-a$$ 2-1 curve from Philadelphia's right-hander and sent it out over the center field fence.
Turns out Harper is pretty good in March/April so far in his career:
The updated March/April career numbers for Mr. @Bharper3407: .308 AVG, 12 doubles, three triples, 13 HR, 34 RBI, 29 walks, 34 runs scored.— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) April 17, 2015
Danny Espinosa added to the lead with a solo home run in the fourth, but Harper's blast was all Max Scherzer would need to win his first game in a Nationals uniform..
1. The Wrap-Up: Jeanmar Gomez took over on the mound for the Phillies in the bottom of the sixth and threw a scoreless frame to keep Philadelphia within three.
After a single by Ian Desmond and a lineout to left by Jayson Werth, Philly skipper Ryne Sandberg went to the pen for lefty Jake Diekman vs Bryce Harper. Harper took a two-out walk from the left-hander, and Ryan Zimmerman drove both runners in with a low liner to right by the first base bag. 6-1 Nationals.
Zim scored on a sharp grounder to second by Wilson Ramos on which Chase Utley made a sliding play and off-balance throw. 7-1.
Ken Giles worked a scoreless bottom of the eighth.
Felipe Rivero made his MLB debut in the ninth and the left-hander gave up a one-out single to center by pinch hitter Cesar Hernandez before striking Cody Asche out with a 95 mph heater up high for his first MLB K. Carlos Ruiz reached on a grounder to short when Danny Espinosa threw wide of first. Ryan Howard drove in a run with a single to center, 7-2. Darin Ruf K'd swinging through a 95 mph heater to end it. 7-2 final.
Nationals now 5-6