Max Scherzer’s post game Zoom call is going to be bananas. B-a-n-a-n-a-s. Joe Girardi poked the bear, and the bear stared back. Max Scherzer submitted to the mandatory checks between innings from the umpires tonight, but when the Philadelphia Phillies’ skipper decided to request a mid-inning check on the Washington Nationals’ starter, Scherzer kind of lost it. The umps found nothing. Scherzer, after finishing up the fifth inning, stared Girardi down as he left the mound, and the manager came out to sort of challenge Scherzer to come out of the dugout and got ejected in the process. This is fantastic, MLB. Just how you pictured it?
Thanks for turning this into a clown show. pic.twitter.com/iMAZHD9Aqh— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 23, 2021
Also, the Nationals won, 3-2. Three straight. 9 of 11. Don’t poke Max, Joe. For serious.
Scherzer vs the Phillies: Though he hadn’t started since June 11th going into tonight’s start, after injuring his groin 12 pitches into his last outing, Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez said Max Scherzer would not be limited in any way in tonight’s matchup with the Phillies.
“No, he’s going to go out there, and that’s one thing we always talk with him,” Martinez said, “he doesn’t want any limitations and neither do we.
“We want him to go out there and just go through the game like he normally does, and give us as many pitches as he possibly can.”
His last start before the one in which he was injured was against the same Phillies, and in Citizens Bank Park, where he gave up five hits, a walk, and one earned run in 7 2⁄3 IP, over which he struck out nine.
Scherzer struck out the first three batters he faced tonight, returning to the mound after he missed a start with a groin issue, but he left a 1-2 cutter up and in for Bryce Harper in the first at bat of the second, and Harper hit it 431 feet to right field for a solo shot that cut a 2-0 lead in half, 2-1.
That Bryce Harper second-deck bomb off Max Scherzer was the hardest-hit HR off Scherzer this year.— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) June 22, 2021
Harper exit velo: 111.6 MPH
Vladdy Jr. 110.5 MPH
Scherzer held the Phillies there through three, and humored the umps when they checked him for foreign substances twice, but when Phillies’ skipper Joe Girardi asked them to check in the middle of the fourth, Scherzer did not take it well:
Max Scherzer willing to have umps check anywhere: pic.twitter.com/uoQ4IzhFQ8— federalbaseball (@federalbaseball) June 23, 2021
Scherzer finished the fourth (a 25-pitch frame) at 86 total, and came back out with a 20-pitch, 1-2-3 fifth that ended his outing, and he stared down Phillies’ skipper Joe Girardi on the way off the field, and Girardi got so heated he got himself ejected after walking out on the field and challenging Scherzer to come out to meet him... This is going great.
Max Scherzer’s Line: 5.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 8 Ks, 1 HR, 106 P, 70 S, 3/1 GO/FO.
Wheeler vs the Nationals: Zack Wheeler gave up eight hits and two earned runs over six innings when he faced the Nationals in the nation’s capital back in May, and a few weeks back, at home in Citizens Bank Park, he gave up five hits and two earned runs in 7 1⁄3 IP against the Phillies’ NL East rivals.
In two starts that followed, heading into his third start of the season against the Nationals tonight, Wheeler threw 14 scoreless innings, walking four, striking out 18, and holding the opposing hitters to a combined .180/.241/.180 line.
What did the Nationals see in the first two matchups with Wheeler this season?
“He has been throwing a lot more sliders,” Davey Martinez said, “then again we know that he likes to attack also with his fastball, and he’s around the zone, he really is around the zone.
“So we got to get the ball in the zone, we’ve got to be aggressive early, he’s going to try to pump strikes right away, so we’ve got to get aggressive early and try to jump him early.
Zack Wheeler, Wicked 82mph Curveball. pic.twitter.com/2AcfwnQYiM— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 22, 2021
“With that being said, last time I think we did a fairly good job of building up his pitch count as well, so we just got to get the ball in the strike zone.”
In the first tonight, Trea Turner walked with one down, took third on a Juan Soto single, and scored on a Josh Bell liner to right in the at bat that followed, 1-0. Yan Gomes hit the third in a row off Wheeler, driving Soto in from second for a 2-0 lead (at the end of a 36-pitch first for the Phillies’ starter).
Juan Soto was 2 for 2 on the night after a one-out single in the top of the third inning, and Yan Gomes was 2 for 2 as well, after a 2-out RBI single to center field drove Soto in for a 3-1 lead.
Wheeler’s 28-pitch third pushed him up to 73 total after three, and he was done for the night after that inning...
Zack Wheeler’s Line: 3.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 Ks, 73 P, 46 S, 3/1 GO/FO, 1 HBP.
Road Soto: Juan Soto started the two-game set in Citizens Bank Park with hits in seven of his previous eight games, going, as the Nationals noted in their pregame notes, “9-for-27 (.333) with a double, two RBI, four walks, one stolen base and three runs scored,” over that stretch, and he, “... reached base safely in seven of his last 11 plate appearances (5 H, 2 BB) over his last three games.”
He was also back on the road, where the 22-year-old slugger had a .326/.439/.621 line on the year, as opposed to his .231/.377/.260 line in Nationals Park. And he was back in CBP, where he started the night with a .311/.417/.744 line in his career.
He finished the night 2 for 5 with two runs scored, singling in his first two at bats.
Bullpen Action: Philly lefty Bailey Falter took over for the Phillies in the top of the fourth, with the Nationals ahead, 3-1, and stranded a one-out single in a 16-pitch frame.
Connor Brogdon got the fifth for the Phillies, and retired the Nationals in order to keep it a 3-1 game.
Brogdon gave up a leadoff single and one-out walk in the Nationals’ half of the sixth, but Ranger Suárez took over and stranded the two batters he inherited.
Austin Voth took over for the Nationals in the bottom of the sixth and retired the Phillies in order, striking out two in an 11-pitch, nine-strike inning.
Suárez made quick work of the Nationals in the top of the seventh.
Voth gave up a leadoff walk in the Philly seventh, then dialed up a 5-4-3 DP and got out No. 3 of another quick frame on a groundout.
Archie Bradley worked around a two-out double by Victor Robles for a scoreless top of the eighth. Still 3-1 Nationals.
Tanner Rainey gave up a one-out bomb of a home run on a 98 MPH 1-2 fastball up to Rhys Hoskins that traveled 406 feet to left to make it a one-run game, 3-2 Nats.
Rainey got two outs before the Nationals went to the pen again for Brad Hand for a four-out save. Bryce Harper stepped in with two down and hit a broken-bat single to left-center field, but Hand got Andrew McCutchen looking with backdoor, 2-2 slider for out No. 3.
Philly lefty Jose Alvarado struck out two (with triple-digit heat) and got a groundout from Juan Soto in a 1-2-3 top of the ninth.
Hand came back out for the bottom of the ninth and gave up a leadoff double by Alex Bohm, who lined a 2-2 fastball to left-center field. Brad Miller sent a fly to short-center. Ronald Torreyes took a 1-2 slider off his foot and took a base.
Matt Vierling came on to pinch hit, and sent a slow roller to short that Trea Turner couldn’t handle. Bases loaded. Pitching coach Jim Hickey came out for a talk with Hand before the closer faced Odubel Herrera, who popped to short left, where Josh Harrison (in left) and Trea Turner collided as Harrison caught out No. 2. Rhys Hoskins? Hoskins fell behind 1-2, got to a full count, and grounded out to end it. Ballgame. Phew.
Final Score: 3-2 Nationals.
Nationals now 34-36