PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Max Scherzer’s bat was even more impressive than his arm.
Scherzer threw seven sharp innings and hit a two-run double, Bryce Harper launched another homer and the Washington Nationals beat the Philadelphia Phillies 8-1 Saturday night.
The Nationals are off to a 9-1 start, best in franchise history.
Scherzer (2-0) allowed one run and five hits, striking out seven.
“I didn’t attack well, but I pitched well,” Scherzer said. “I found ways to get some outs.”
Scherzer, a decent hitter for an ace, made the Phillies pay for intentionally walking Danny Espinosa with two outs in the fourth. The pitcher lined a double the opposite way to right to knock in a pair.
Excited about his fourth career extra-base hit, Scherzer smacked his hand after rounding the bag.
“I take pride in my hitting,” he said. “I swing a lot in the cage. I swing every day. It’s nice to help the team.”
Harper connected in the fifth, sending a long drive out to right for his fifth homer. The reigning NL MVP has gone deep in his last five games in Philadelphia, dating to last year.
“I see the ball really well here,” Harper said. “It’s a great place to play.”
Aaron Nola (0-2) was the second Phillies starter roughed up by the Nationals in two games. He gave up seven runs and seven hits in five innings.
“I didn’t have my fastball right out of the gate,” Nola said. “I kept missing and they kept putting good swings on the ball.”
A night after scoring five runs off Jeremy Hellickson in the first inning of a 9-1 win, the Nationals jumped ahead 3-0 before Scherzer threw his first pitch.
Harper started it with a sacrifice fly. Ryan Zimmerman followed with an RBI single and Daniel Murphy hit a triple to drive in the third run.
Harper’s two-run shot in the fifth put the Nationals up 7-0. Pinch-hitter Chris Heisey had a solo homer in the ninth.
“We’ve got guys starting to heat up,” manager Dusty Baker said.
Nationals: Washington has a five-game lead in the NL East after only 10 games.
Phillies: Fell to 5-7 with their second straight loss.
While the Nationals handled the Phillies, the Washington Capitals beat the Philadelphia Flyers to take a 2-0 lead in their NHL playoff series.
“Great day for our fans,” Scherzer said.
Darin Ruf started his first game in left field for the Phillies this season, including spring training. Ruf, who started 80 games in the outfield over the past four years, had been playing only first base in 2016. Phillies manager Pete Mackanin planned to platoon him with Ryan Howard, but moved Ruf to LF to keep both hitters in the lineup. Ruf committed an error on his first chance, dropping the ball on the transfer on Harper’s shallow fly in the first. He went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
Harper was picked off first base by Nola to end the third inning. He was ruled safe initially, but the Phillies challenged and the call was overturned following a video review.
STARTING TO SLIDE
Philadelphia’s starters had a league-leading 2.14 ERA after Vince Velasquez’s dazzling shutout Thursday. It’s up to 3.42 after the past two games.
Nationals OF Ben Revere hopes to return from the disabled list the first week of May. He has been out since April 4 because of a right oblique strain.
Looking to complete a three-game sweep, the Nationals send LHP Gio Gonzalez (0-0, 0.00 ERA) to the mound against RHP Charlie Morton (1-1, 5.23). Gonzalez tossed six shutout innings in his only start. Morton threw 6 2/3 scoreless innings in his last start.
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