Phillies: Didi Gregorius, Bryce Harper homer off Max Scherzer
By Matt Rappa
The Phillies’ Didi Gregorius and Bryce Harper each crushed three-run home runs early against Max Scherzer
The Philadelphia Phillies wasted no time in their first of three exhibition games, Saturday evening opposite the reigning World Series champion Washington Nationals, to show they are ready for the 60-game sprint.
Facing seven-time All-Star and three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, the Phillies rallied for six hits and seven runs against the right-hander in the first two innings of exhibition ball.
Six of the seven runs came via the long ball — three-run home runs off the bats of shortstop Didi Gregorius and right fielder Bryce Harper.
Gregorius’ home run was a line drive to right field, whereas Harper’s was a no-doubter to center field. The early-game showing was a good sign for the former New York Yankees infielder, who failed to homer in 11 spring training games earlier this year in Florida. Therefore, his three-run shot opposite Scherzer was his first long ball as a Phillie.
For Harper, meanwhile, it was his fourth exhibition home run, while raising his RBI total to 14 in nine games.
In total, Scherzer threw 44 pitches across the first two innings. The Phillies other run came via a Roman Quinn sacrifice fly, scoring Jay Bruce from third base.
While Scherzer struggled, Phillies starter Aaron Nola cruised through the first two frames and allowed just one hit, while striking out one, spanning 19 pitches (15 strikes) and seven batters faced. He went on to throw five scoreless innings overall; the Phillies won the game, 7-2.
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So far, so good for manager Joe Girardi‘s squad. They will have two more exhibition games, Saturday home against the Baltimore Orioles, and Monday on the road against the Yankees. Then, they will have just days to prepare ahead of Opening Day, July 24, opposite the Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park.
Nola hopes to be the starting pitcher, in what would be his third straight season opening nod.
If Gregorius and Harper can stay hot early in the season, it would only help them reach the postseason for the first time since 2011.