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Home Again, and So Close: Phillies 6, Nationals 7

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Facing Max Scherzer, the first home game of the season went, well, not completely terribly.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Philadelphia Phillies
Shroedinger’s Pitcher: You don’t know if it’s a K, BB, or HR until the wave function collapses
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Home openers are supposed to be fun games, days where the failures of the past can be forgotten as our favorite team starts fresh in front of the home crowd. If you’re the type of person who enjoys a day at the ballpark, the sights and sounds, the food and drink, and the simple fact that there’s meaningful baseball being played, then yes, today was a fun day. If you care about the outcome of the game, today wasn’t quite as much fun, though the Phils did their best to make a game of it in the latter innings. So, still fun, but slightly less so.

To be fair to the Phillies, this is still a rebuilding team, facing the consensus best team in the division, who were also sending the reigning NL Cy Young award winner to the mound in Max Scherzer. That is not a recipe for success, and so it should come as no particular surprise that they fell behind early, struggling against the Nationals’ ace.

To recap the Phillies offense through the first three innings, ... . Yeah, that’s it. Through the first three innings the Scherzer was perfect. The Nationals, on the other hand, have this kid named Bryce Harper, who you may have heard of. He got involved early. In the top of third inning the Comcast Sportsnet broadcast declared the Toyota Turning Point of the game to be Harper’s first-inning two-run home run off Vince Velasquez. They weren’t really wrong, insofar as turning points are actual things that exist.

One of the recurring themes of last season was Velasquez’s battle with control of his electric stuff, and his inability to go deep into games because of it. Those hoping he had mastered his command over the off-season will be disappointed by today’s outing. The good: Velasquez struck out 10 Nationals batters, against only 3 walks. The bad: those 10 strikeouts came over 4 innings, and were accompanied by 4 runs, 3 walks, and 5 hits, two of which left the ballpark. He did his best to act like a three true outcome pitcher. Still, 10 strikeouts over 4 innings isn’t unimpressive.

Joely Rodriguez relieved VV and promptly walked Harper, surrendered a double to Daniel Murphy, and then let long time friend and he-who-shan’t-be-booed Jayson Werth launch a three-run bomb into the left field stands. 7-0.

The Phils offense slowly came to life as the afternoon progressed. Howie Kendrick broke up the no-no in the 4th with a double down the right field line, and moved to third on Odubel Herrera’s single, where he would watch the inning end. They would get on the board in the sixth, after a Cesar Hernandez double and an Odubel RBI-single.

If the Nationals have a weakness right now, it’s their bullpen, and that leaky pen did its best to let the Phillies back into the game in the later innings. Scherzer ran into a little trouble in the bottom of the sixth inning, as he walked pinch-hitter Brock Stassi and Tommy Joseph to being the inning. He then uncorked a wild pitch which fortuitously bounced off the brick backstop right back to Matt Wieters where he threw out Stassi at third. Unucky bounce for the Phils, as the run Stassi represented would later loom fairly large.

Scherzer struck out struck out Cameron Rupp on his 98th pitch of the afternoon, and, on a slightly limited pitch count, was pulled for Sammy Solis. Solis surrendered a double to Freddy Galvis, and a subsequent opposite-field home run to Aaron Altherr. Nats 7, Phils 4.

Hector Neris got through the 8th with a single, a 5-4-3 double play, and a strikeout. Solis was replaced by Enny Romero, who allowed a Kendrick single and a Herrera walk to the only two batters he faced before being replaced by future-Nationals-interim-closer Koda Glover, who retired Franco, pinch-hitter Daniel Nava, and Joseph.

Jeanmar Gomez retired Harper, Daniel Murphy, and Ryan Zimmerman in order in the top of the 9th. The Phils kicked up some dust and put on a show for the home crowd in the 9th, as they got to current-but-assuredly-not-permanent Nationals closer Blake Treinen. Cameron Rupp singled on a hard ground ball up the middle to lead off the inning. Freddy Galvis followed that by launching his second home run of the season down the right field line. Nats 7, Phils 6. That, unfortunately, would be as far as the Phils offense would take them. Altherr struck out for the first out of the inning, Hernandez walked, after which Kendrick and Herrera flew and grounded out, respectively.

The game got close, and who knows what happens if the wild pitch in the 7th doesn’t bounce right back to Wieters, but it did, and the Phils lose a close one.

Takeaways:

  • Velasquez still showing his elite sing-and-miss stuff, still can’t really control it efficiently
  • Max Scherzer is really good
  • Jayson Werth hits the Phillies really well, with 20 career HR against the Phils in 95 games
  • Freddy Galvis is tied for the team lead in HR. Freddy Galvis is a power hitter?
  • After a 2/4 day, with a walk and a double, Odubel is currently hitting .429/.556/.571

The second game of the series starts tomorrow night at 7:05 with Aaron Nola on the bump for the first time since July of last year.