WASHINGTON (AP) Scoring two runs with Max Scherzer on the mound is all the offense the Washington Nationals need for wins these days. Having the pitcher race around the bases for the go-ahead score isn’t usually part of the plan.
Bryce Harper hit another home run and Scherzer had another dominant outing to help the Washington Nationals beat the Philadelphia Phillies 2-1 on Friday night for their sixth straight win.
Harper’s homer, his 11th in 14 games, tied the score 1-1 in the second inning. Ian Desmond’s RBI double drove in Scherzer from first base with the go-ahead run in the sixth. The NL East-leading Nationals are 18-4 since April 28.
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Scherzer (5-3) allowed four hits over eight innings with six strikeouts and one walk. He retired 19 of 22 after Odubel Herrera’s RBI double in the second – including the final eight batters. Over his last four starts, Scherzer is 4-0 with 33 strikeouts.
It was his base running that gained most of the postgame attention.
”He loves to play,” Nationals manager Matt Williams said of Scherzer. ”We would just assume he doesn’t have to score from first every time he pitches.”
With the score tied at 1-1, Scherzer led off the sixth inning with a clean single to right on a 1-2 pitch from Sean O’Sullivan (1-3). One out later, he raced home on Desmond’s drive off the centerfield wall.
”I just tried to do the right read, tried to run the bases the right way,” Scherzer said.
The effort impressed his teammates, sort of.
”Kudos to Max,” Desmond said. ”It was tough base running – no offense – for a pitcher.”
Drew Storen got the last three outs for his 13th save in 14 chances. He allowed two singles in the ninth, but got the final two batters.
The Phillies have lost three of four after winning six in a row. O’Sullivan allowed two runs and five hits in six innings.
Scherzer wasn’t totally untouchable in his third start this season against Philadelphia – three of the four hits he allowed were doubles. Denard Span chased down multiple long fly balls in center field.
”I thought we hit some balls hard off of (Scherzer),” Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. ”We hit some balls off the wall. I thought we attacked him pretty well, but yeah he’s top notch.”
O’Sullivan went 0-1 with a 4.91 ERA in two earlier starts against Washington this season, both coming in April. Harper homered in each game. The right fielder did it for the third time in his first at-bat Friday.
The Phillies opened the scoring with two doubles off the wall in the second inning for a 1-0 lead. Harper immediately countered leading off the bottom of the inning, poking a 1-2 pitch just over the left-field wall for his 11th home run in 45 at-bats.
”The pitch, we were trying to go up,” O’Sullivan said. ”But right now it seems like anything he puts the wood on (goes out).”
”I wasn’t sure if it was going out, but it snuck over,” Harper said.
The Phillies scored four or more runs in seven of their previous eight games.
Chase Utley had two hits in the second stop of a three-city, nine-game road trip.
Phillies: OF Grady Sizemore went 0 for 4 in his return to the starting lineup for the first time in three games.
Nationals: INF Anthony Rendon (oblique, left knee) upped his workout regimen Thursday, including his first batting session against a live arm. Williams remains uncertain about a specific timeline for the Silver Slugger’s return. … RHP Casey Janssen (right shoulder inflammation) was activated from the 15-day disabled list and placed Sammy Solis (left shoulder inflammation) on the 15-day DL.
Nationals reliever Aaron Barrett and Phillies pitcher Aaron Harang continued a pregame standoff all the way through Scherzer’s first pitch. Wearing a batting helmet, Barrett stood in front of the Nationals’ dugout for several minutes. Harang, who donned a catcher’s mask and chest protector, stood some feet away from the Phillies’ dugout. Eventually Harang gave in, leading to roars from the stands and Barrett’s teammates.
Phillies: LHP Cole Hamels (4-3, 3.24 ERA) is 3-0 with a 1.69 ERA over his last three starts. He is 0-1 with a 4.15 ERA in two starts against Washington this season.
Nationals: Stephen Strasburg (3-4, 5.98) is 2-3 with a 7.14 ERA in five starts since beating the Phillies on April 19.