5. Scherzer vs Phillies... again: Max Scherzer gave up two runs total, both earned, over 14 innings pitched in back-to-back starts against the Philladelphia Phillies back in April, striking out 17 batters in 4-3 and 7-2 wins for the Washington Nationals and one win for himself.
The second outing took place in Nationals Park, where the right-hander was set to face the Nats' NL East rivals again tonight.
After that outing, Nationals' manager Matt Williams told reporters that though Scherzer didn't have his best fastball that night, he adjusted to what was working and stayed around for eight strong.
"Breaking ball, changeup [were] really effective against the lefties," Williams said.
"Fastball when he needed it, but he could reach back a little bit tonight and get it when he wanted to. But he used his other pitches really effectively tonight."
"He understands how to pitch," Williams continued. "He's got a game plan going in and adjusts during the course of a game if it's not there for him in a certain inning or he just doesn't have what he wants that night, he can go to other pitches."
In five starts since he last faced the Phillies, the 30-year-old right-hander has gone (3-2) with a 2.31 ERA, four walks (1.03 BB/9) and 41 Ks (10.54 K/9) in 35 IP, over which he's held opposing hitters to a .229/.263/.344 line against.
His last outing was a seven-inning, 11 K start against the San Diego Padres in Petco Park in which he earned his fourth win of the season.
That outing left the 30-year-old righty with a 1.75 ERA, a 2.01 FIP, eight walks (1.27 BB/9) and 66 Ks (10.48 K/9) in 56 ⅔ IP.
His third start of the season against the Phillies and his eighth start overall this season began with... a standoff?
Barrett vs. Harang. Barrett with the helmet, Harang the mask. pic.twitter.com/23xMNT28iM— Dan Kolko (@masnKolko) May 22, 2015
After Aaron Barrett won another pregame standoff, Scherzer got to work, retiring the Phillies in order in a quick, 11-pitch, 1-2-3 frame.
Ryan Howard doubled off the GEICO wall in center field in Nats Park on a 94 mph 1-0 fastball in the first at bat of the second. Maikel Franco grounded back to the mound in the next AB, however, and Howard was caught off second and dead to rights in a quick rundown for the first out of the frame. Grady Sizemore tipped a 94 mph 0-2 fastball into Wilson Ramos' mitt for out no.2 and Scherzer's second K. Odubel Herrera took a 94 mph 2-2 fastball for a ride to center for a two-out RBI double that put the Phillies up 1-0. A swinging K from Carlos Ruiz ended a 21-pitch second. 32 total for Scherzer.
Ben Revere hit a broken-bat single to right with one down in the top of the third, but he was stranded two outs later at the end of a 12-pitch second that left Scherzer at 44 total after three.
Scherzer threw a diving 2-2 change by Ryan Howard for the first out of the fourth, and after a grounder to the mound from Maikel Franco, Grady Sizemore sent a fly to Denard Span in deep center for out no.3 of a 13-pitch, 1-2-3 fourth. 57 pitches.
Odubel Herrera drew a leadoff walk in the top of the fifth, and he was running on a grounder to the mound by Carlos Ruiz in the next at bat. so he avoided a double play. Herrera was stranded at second two outs later, however, and Scherzer was through five on 73 pitches after a 16-pitch fifth.
Chase Utley lined an 0-1 fastball to center for a one-out double not even Denard Span could reach, and took third on a groundout to second (short right) by Ryan Howard, but Maikel Franco sent a weak fly to right to end a scoreless 12-pitch sixth that left Scherzer at 85 pitches.
Grady Sizemore K'd swinging over a 1-2 change for out no.1 of the seventh and Scherzer's 6th K. A groundout to second and a fly to center ended a 12-pitch frame. 97 total.
Scherzer came back out for the eighth and threw a quick, 13-pitch, 1-2-3 frame to keep it 2-1 Nationals. 110 pitches.
• Max Scherzer's Line: 8.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 Ks, 110 P, 79 S, 8/3 GO/FO.
4. O'Sullivan vs Scherzer again: Phillies' righty Sean O'Sullivan and Nationals' starter Max Scherzer matched up in back-to-back starts back in April, with the 27-year-old Philly right-hander going (0-1) with a 4.91 ERA (6 ER in 11 IP) in those outings vs Scherzer's (1-0) with a 1.29 ERA (2 ER in 14 IP).
After the second outing, on April 17th in D.C., O'Sullivan was placed on the DL with left knee tendinitis.
He returned to the rotation on May 12th, giving up five hits and three earned runs in five innings pitched against the Pittsburgh Pirates in a 7-2 loss at home in Citizens Bank Park, but earned his first win with the Phillies the next time out with six scoreless against the Arizona Diamondbacks in a 6-0 win in Philadelphia.
That start left the right-hander with a (1-2) record through four starts, a 3.68 ERA, 5.53 FIP, six walks (2.45 BB/9) and 13 Ks (5.32 K/9) in 22 IP this season, over which opposing hitters have a .238/.309/.393 line against him.
O'Sullivan was back on the road tonight, where he's struggled in his career, with an (0-4) record and an 8.44 ERA in six games, four starts and 26 ⅔ IP since his last road win back on May 12, 2011 when the starter was a member of the Kansas City Royals' rotation.
In his third start of the season against the Nationals, and his second of the year in D.C., O'Sullivan started things off with two backwards Ks in a 15-pitch, 1-2-3 first.
After getting a 1-0 lead to work with, O'Sullivan retook the mound for the second against Bryce Harper, who battled for six pitches and took a 91 mph shoulder-high 1-2 fastball to the left field corner for an opposite field blast that tied things up at 1-1. Harper's 16th. Three outs followed in a 19-pitch second that left O'Sullivan at 34 pitches.
The Nationals went down in order in an eight-pitch third that left O'Sullivan at 42 pitches.
Yunel Escobar singled to center with one down in the Nationals' fourth, taking a first-pitch fastball back up the middle to bring Bryce Harper up with a runner on, but Harper grounded into an inning-ending 6-3 DP to end a seven-pitch frame. 49 pitches.
O'Sullivan worked around a leadoff single by Ryan Zimmerman for a scoreless, 17-pitch fifth that left him at 66 pitches.
Max Scherzer singled to start the Nationals' sixth, and one out later, scored from first on an RBI double to center field by Ian Desmond. Desmond's 12th two-base hit. One out later, the Phillies walked Bryce Harper intentionally to get to Ryan Zimmerman with two outs and runners on the corners, and O'Sullivan got a groundout to third to hold it there. 2-1 Nationals. 22-pitch frame, 88 total.
• Sean O'Sullivan's Line: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 Ks, 88 P, 50 S, 8/3 GO/FO.
The boys are in the nation's capital. pic.twitter.com/VVU7yekOOW— Phillies (@Phillies) May 22, 2015
3. Key Matchup - Scherzer vs Howard: Philadelphia first baseman Ryan Howard went 3 for 13 during the Phillies' four-game visit to the nation's capital in April, leaving him with a .175/.214/.250 line to that point.
Howard finished the first month of his 12th major league campaign with a .194/.247/.417 line, four doubles and four home runs in 78 plate appearances.
In the last three weeks, however, the 35-year-old slugger has picked up the pace, going 22 for 68 (.324/.370/.632) with four doubles, a triple and five home runs in 19 games and 73 PAs to leave him with a .257/.307/.521 line over 140 PAs this season.
Howard has hit all nine of his 2015 home runs in his last 98 PAs, with two in his last two games.
Tonight in Nationals Park, where Howard started the three-game set with a .227/.300/.444 line, seven doubles and 12 HRs in 220 PAs in his career, he was facing Nats' right-hander Max Scherzer, against whom he was 0 for 7 with six Ks in their respective careers.
• Could Scherzer shut the resurgent Howard down?
• 1st AB: Howard led off the second and hammered a double off the GEICO wall in center field on a 94 mph 1-0 fastball from Scherzer. 1 for 8.
• 2nd AB: Howard led off in the fourth as well. He battled for eight pitches before striking out on a diving 87 mph 2-2 change inside. 1 for 9 vs Scherzer.
• 3rd AB: Chase Utley doubled in front of Ryan Howard in the top of the sixth, but the Phillies' slugger grounded into the shift for the second out of the frame. 1 for 10.
Verdict: Scherzer wins!
2. Turning Point(s): Phillies' rookie Odubel Herrera improved to 4 for 8 career vs Max Scherzer with his two-out RBI double to center in the top of the second inning. 1-0. But Nats' slugger Bryce Harper improved to 3 for 6 career vs Philly righty Sean O'Sullivan in the first at bat of the second, with all three hits home runs. Harper took a 91 mph heater out to the left field corner for an opposite field blast and his 16th HR of the season. 1-1 after two.
Scherzer went all DIY in the bottom of the sixth, with the score still tied at 1-1.
One out after singling to start the frame, Scherzer sped 'round the basepaths on an RBI double to center field by Ian Desmond and scored the go-ahead run to "help his own cause" and make it a 2-1 game.
1. The Wrap-Up: Luis Garcia gave up a one-out single by Clint Robinson in the Nationals' seventh, but picked pinch runner Michael Taylor off first for the second out of a scoreless frame.
Ken Giles gave up a two-out walk to Ian Desmond, but got a pop to short from Yunel Escobar to end the Nationals' eighth.
Drew Storen came on in the top of the ninth looking for save no.13 of 2015. Chase Utley dropped a pop single into short center for a leadoff hit. Ryan Howard stepped in with a runner on and went down swinging at a 2-2 slider. Maikel Franco hit a grounder up the middle Ian Desmond slid for but failed to come up with. Two on.
Grady Sizemore sent a fly to left for out no.2. National-Killer Odubel Herrera stepped in with two on and two out and fell behind 1-2 chasing a change into the dirt and chased a fastball up high for strike three. Ballgame. 2-1 Nationals.
Nationals now 25-17