The host Washington Nationals won a surprising pitcher’s duel over the Phillies tonight at Nationals Park, 2-1. Max Scherzer wasn’t the surprising part of that equation, but that Phils’ starter Sean O’Sullivan mostly matched him was a surprise.
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Scherzer, who has perhaps been the best overall starting pitcher in the National League this season, turned in yet another outstanding performance. The Nats big free agent signing went 8 innings, allowing just 4 hits and 1 earned run, striking out 6 and walking one.
But that wasn’t the limit of Scherzer’s contributions on this night. It was his offensive contributions that ultimately made the difference on the scoreboard. In the bottom of the 6th, he led off the inning with a single. Then with one out, Ian Desmond drove a double to right. Scherzer never stopped running, scoring all the way from first to put the Nationals up 2-1.
The Nationals’ ace was pretty much matched most of the night by Phils’ starter O’Sullivan, who went 6 innings, allowing 5 hits and a walk. Luis Garcia and Ken Giles each tossed a shutout frame for the Phillies to keep the game within reach.
The Phils had drawn first blood in this one back in the top of the 2nd. Ryan Howard led off that frame with a double off Scherzer that missed being a home run by about a foot. He was erased on a fielder’s choice grounder by Maikel Franco. Then with two outs, Odubel Herrera drove an rbi double off the wall in center, the Phils’ 2nd double of the inning that nearly was a homer.
As has been the case all too frequently lately, the Phils gave a lead right back. In the bottom of the 2nd, the National League’s top hitter, the red-hot Bryce Harper, muscled an opposite field homer just into the flower beds over the left field wall to tie it up at 1-1.
With Scherzer lifted for Nationals’ closer Drew Storen in the top of the 9th, the Fightin’ Phils took a run at tying it up. Chase Utley, the only player on either side to record two hits, led off with a bloop single into center. When Franco ripped a 1-out single, the tying run had moved into scoring position. But Storen buckled down to get the final two outs for the Save.
The victory was the 6th straight for Washington, and was the Phillies 3rd loss in 4 games. They are now 2-3 at the halfway point of this 10-game road trip. On Saturday there will be a marquee starting pitching matchup, with Stephen Strasburg taking the mound for the Nats, and Cole Hamels headed out for the Phillies as trade rumors continue to swirl.