May 22, 2015, 9:41 PM EDT
GAME IN NUTSHELL: Max Scherzer and Sean O’Sullivan had squared off twice already this season prior to Friday night, with Scherzer prevailing both times. And in each of those games, the Nationals ace was buoyed by a Bryce Harper homer off O’Sullivan.
So what happened in meeting No. 3 of the season? The exact same thing. Scherzer once again pitched a gem against the Phillies, tossing eight innings of 1-run ball. And Harper once again homered off O’Sullivan, giving him three in three games against the big right-hander.
The Nationals’ go-ahead run, though, came in large part due to Scherzer, who led off the sixth with a single to right and then busted it 270 feet around the bases to score on Ian Desmond’s RBI double off the center-field fence. The crowd of 35,893 was particularly impressed with that aspect of Scherzer’s night.
Drew Storen pitched the ninth, protecting a 1-run lead, securing his 13th save in 14 tries and lowering his ERA to 0.98. And the Nats notched their sixth straight win, their 18th win in 22 games to match a club record and continue a torrid stretch of elite baseball.
HITTING HIGHLIGHT: Harper’s latest home run was yet another jaw-dropper. Not because of how far he hit it, but because of how he hit it. Down 0-2 to O’Sullivan, Harper took a close curveball for a ball, showing the patience that has become his hallmark this season. Then he somehow managed to connect on a high fastball at his shoulders and drive it over the left-field fence, an impressive display of power once again from Harper, who is just on an insane tear at the plate. At that moment, he had 11 homers in a span of 45 at-bats. How crazy is that? Consider that if you took away all his non-homers from that stretch and turned them into outs, he’d still own a .244 batting average. Just nuts.
PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: Just as we’ve come to expect Harper to homer every night, we’ve come to expect dominance from Scherzer every fifth night. And Friday night was no exception. The right-hander gave up a couple of well-struck balls to center field in the early innings, with Ryan Howard and Odubel Herrera combining to plate the Phillies’ lone run. But he was lights-out after that, working quickly and efficiently to toss eight innings on 110 pitches. In the process, he became only the second pitcher in Nationals history to go at least seven innings in seven straight starts. Only Livan Hernandez has bested that, with eight straight such starts back in 2005.
KEY STAT: Five of Harper’s six intentional walks this season have come via the Phillies pitching staff.
UP NEXT: The middle game of this series features Stephen Strasburg (3-4, 5.98) and Cole Hamels (4-3, 3.24) on the mound. First pitch is scheduled for 4:05 p.m. Saturday.
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
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As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
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