PHILADELPHIA, PA (CBS) — The Phillies were faced with a number of obstacles in their home opener on an overcast Friday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park.
The blowing flags in the outfield, the swirling hot wrappers dotting the field, and 2016 National League Cy Young award winner the Max Scherzer. It didn’t seem fair. Even before the first pitch was thrown, it didn’t seem fair.
Scherzer, coming off a 20-win season, did what he wanted to do, when he wanted to do it, and the Phillies were left at times aimlessly flailing at air.
Buoyed by a pair of two-run homers off the bats of Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy and a three-run shot from former Phillie Jayson Werth, the Nationals managed to slide by the Phillies, 7-6, before a sellout crowd of 45,121.
The Nats moved to 3-1 with the victory and sit atop the National League East, while the Phillies fell to 1-3 and occupy the bottom the of the division.
Phils’ starter Vince Velasquez had a helter-skelter opener, striking out 10, while giving up four runs over four innings, with three walks and five hits. He was pulled after four with a whopping 9.00 ERA.
Scherzer was perfect through three, before giving up his first hit in the fourth, a double by Howie Kendrick, which was followed by a single from Odubel Herrera. From there, Scherzer struck out Maikel Franco looking and got Michael Saunders to ground into a fielder’s choice and that concluded the Phillies’ mild scoring threat.
In four of the Phillies’ first five innings, Scherzer faced the minimum three batters. After five, he had thrown 68 pitches, 45 for strikes. And of the first 17 batters he faced, the Phillies swung at first pitch six times. The Phillies got to Scherzer in the sixth, when Cesar Hernandez doubled to center and Herrera drove him in with a single to right. Scherzer went 6.2 innings, with seven strikeouts, giving up four hits and one run. He walked two, and threw 98 pitches, 60 for strikes.
That’s when it got interesting.
Two batters later, Aaron Altherr slugged a two-run homer into some empty blue seats in right, making what appeared to be a blowout into a competitive field.
Phillies pitching combined for 17 strikeouts.
Freddy Galvis struck more anxiety through the Nationals with a two-run homer that curved inside the right field foul pole in the ninth that drew the Phillies to within 7-6. From there, however, Nats’ reliever Blake Treinen closed it out, leaving the tying run, Cesar Hernandez, who had walked, on first.