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Washington Nationals drop 4-3 decision to Philadelphia Phillies: First inning woes continue for Max Scherzer

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Max Scherzer struggled again, but the Washington Nationals rallied to tie it after falling behind early, only to eventually drop the series opener with the Philadelphia Phillies, 4-3 final in the nation's capital.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Max Scherzer bounced back from a less-than-stellar start against the Atlanta Braves in the nation's capital earlier this month, in which he gave up six hits, three walks and three earned runs, with seven strong innings of work against the Philadelphia Phillies in Citizens Bank Park.

Scherzer limited Phillies' hitters to one run on five hits in that 108-pitch outing, earning the win and improving to (5-1) in seven career starts against Philadelphia, over which he put up a 2.11 ERA, six walks and 49 Ks in 47 innings pitched, with a .190/.220/.305 line against in those starts.

He followed that turn in the rotation up with another rough outing, however, which saw him give up eight hits, two walks and five runs in five innings against the Miami Marlins the last time out before tonight.

Would another outing against the Phillies help him get back on track? It didn't start well.

Scherzer walked the first batter he faced tonight on four pitches and gave up a two-run blast by Andres Blanco on pitch No. 6, 2-0 Phillies in the first

The two runs were the seventh and eighth Scherzer has allowed in the first innings of his four starts this season. He'd only given up six total in his other 21 IP before tonight.

Daniel Murphy and Danny Espinosa combined to cut the Phillies' lead in half in the second, with Murphy doubling to right off Philly starter Vince Velasquez, moving to third on a wild pitch and scoring on a drag/sac bunt toward first by Espinosa, 2-1.

Ryan Howard took the third leadoff walk from Scherzer in four innings in the first at bat of the fourth and took third base on a double by catcher Cameron Rupp in the next at bat. Howard was thrown out at home on a weak grounder toward first, but Rupp scored on a one-out single to left by Cesar Hernandez, 3-1 after four.

With runners on first and third and one out in the Nationals' half of the fifth, Anthony Rendon sent a grounder third, but Phillies' third baseman Maikel Franco ran to the base and threw late to first instead of going for the 5-4-3 DP, giving Bryce Harper an RBI opportunity that Harper cashed in with an opposite field single that made it a one run game, 3-2.

Ryan Zimmerman followed with an RBI grounder to right field that tied it up, 3-3 after five in the series opener.

Max Scherzer's Line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 7 Ks, 1 HR, 116 P, 79 S, 7/2 GO/FO.

Oliver Perez took over in the seventh and gave up back-to-back, one-out doubles by Andres Blanco and Maikel Franco as the Phillies retook the lead, 4-3.

The Nationals threatened in the seventh, but Ryan Zimmerman K'd looking to strand two after an intentional walk to Bryce Harper put two on with two out.

Hector Neris and Jeanmar Gomez handled the eighth and ninth, respectively, and the Phillies took the series opener, 4-3 final.

Nationals now 14-5

NATS NOTES:

  • Washington dropped their first two games against Philadelphia last season, but went 12-5 against the Phillies after that.
  • In today's Nationals-themed Fun with Arbitrary End Points segment, the Nats are 53-43 against the Phillies... since 2011, after the Nationals went 39-71 from 2005-2010 against their NL East rivals.
  • The Phillies are 14-24 in Nationals Park since the beginning of the 2012 season.
  • Sunday's 5:56 game was the longest regular season game (by time) in Nationals' history (2005-present).
  • The Phillies, who didn't have a double-digit hit total over the first 15 games, have now recorded ten or more hits in each of the last four games.
  • The Nationals' 14-4 record early this season is the major leagues' best and matches the best start to a season in franchise history (2005-present), matching the market set by the 2012 Nationals and 1932 Senators, who were the last D.C.-based team to start 14-4.
  • Daniel Murphy has hit safely in 15 of his first 17 games this season and he has 10 multi-hit games in those seventeen games. He's reached base safely in 33 of his first 71 plate appearances as a National. He had hits in 16 of 18 games after a leadoff double in the second.
  • Phillies' CF Odubel Herrera had a 16-game on-base streak going as the series in D.C. started. He walked in the first at bat of the game to extend it to 17-straight.
  • In today's Phillies-themed Fun with Arbitrary End Points segment, Herrera has the third-highest on-base percentage in the majors (.484), since April 8th.
  • Herrera has seen more pitches per plate appearance (4.93) than anyone in the majors thus far this season.
  • Bryce Harper started the night leading the Majors in RBIs (23), slugging percentage (.855) and home runs (9).
  • With runners on base, Harper was 9 for 19 (.474) early this season with five doubles, four home runs and six walks in plate appearances in which runners on on when he steps to the plate.
  • Washington's pitching staff has a combined 2.24 ERA, the lowest amongst all major league teams.
  • Max Scherzer started the night (5-1) in seven career starts vs the Phillies with a 2.11 ERA against the Nationals' NL East rivals.

Nationals now 14-5