NL Cy Young candidates Max Scherzer and Aaron Nola faced off Thursday afternoon at Nationals Park. Nola threw eight shutout innings, giving up five hits, walking one and striking out nine. He improved to 15-3 and lowered his era to 2.13. Nola impressed as he out dueled the best pitcher in baseball and got himself out of a few jams.
The Nationals first threat occurred in the bottom of the third. Spencer Kieboom led off with a double and then Scherzer was able to bunt the runner over to third. With one out, Nola was able to strike out Adam Eaton and got Trea Turner to line out to center. The Nationals threatened again in the bottom of the seventh when Mark Reynolds hit a two-out double. Nola was able leave the runner stranded as Wilmer Difo flied out to left.
Washington’s best chance came in the bottom of the eighth. Adam Eaton hit a two-out double and Nola chose to pitch around Turner to face Bryce Harper. The gamble payed off as Nola struck him out. He was able to go eight innings for the third time this season. Nola’s performance today was able to inch him closer to being the front-runner for the NL Cy Young.
Scherzer went seven innings, struck out 10, walked four and gave up two runs. He only threw one bad pitch, a fastball to Odubel Herrera, who crushed it for a two-run homer, his 20th of the season.
He fell to 16-6 with a 2.13 era. This was the 78th time in Scherzer’s career that he has struck out 10 or more batters in a game. Scherzer started the game dominating the Phillies hitters and did not give up a hit until the top of the fifth, a single off the glove of Trea Turner by Jorge Alfaro. The play was ruled a hit and fans groaned at the decision as it ended Scherzer’s bid for the third no-hitter of his career. After the home run to Herrera, Scherzer was able to gather himself and struck out the last two batters he faced.
With the loss, Washington is 64-64 and eight games behind the Atlanta Braves for first in the NL East. Philadelphia improved to 69-58 and are 2.5 games behind the Braves for first. Atlanta starts a three-game series later tonight against the struggling Miami Marlins. Both teams need the Braves to lose to stay in the hunt.
Washington heads to New York to play a three-game series against the Mets. Philadelphia will travel to Toronto for a three-game series with the Blue Jays.
Featured Image from Sports Illustrated.