Phillies’ Nola goes up against Nationals’ Scherzer

WASHINGTON — National League Cy Young Award candidates square off in Thursday’s series finale between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Washington Nationals.

Phillies right-hander Aaron Nola (14-3, 2.24 ERA) opposes right-hander Max Scherzer (16-5, 2.11) as the Nationals (64-63) go for the sweep after Ryan Zimmerman’s walk-off, two-out, two-run homer gave them an 8-7 win on Wednesday night.

Zimmerman’s shot off closer Seranthony Dominguez was his 11th career walk-off homer and first since 2016.

“That guy is nasty,” Zimmerman said after Washington won its second straight game following the trades of Daniel Murphy and Matt Adams. “Ninth inning, a close game and the other team has the lead, those (closers) are usually pretty good. I kind of put the pressure on them. They’re supposed to get me out.”

The Phillies (68-58) have lost four straight and nine of 13. They trail first-place Atlanta by three games.

“This is a big test for us,” manager Gave Kapler said after Philadelphia wasted an 11-hit night. “Big challenge to have a tough week like we’ve had and then to have an excruciating loss like the one we had tonight. Our guys aren’t going to hang our heads. We’re going to come back swinging tomorrow.”

Nola and Scherzer appear at or near the top of the various NL pitching categories. Scherzer is first in wins and Nola is second. Scherzer is second in ERA behind Jacob deGrom of the Mets and Nola is third. Scherzer is first in strikeouts (234) and innings pitched (174 2/3) and second in ERA, while Nola is seventh in strikeouts (160), fifth in innings pitched (161) and third in ERA.

And in terms of Thursday being a matinee, Scherzer is third in daytime ERA (2.24) and Nola is fifth (2.86).

Nola hasn’t lost since July 14. Last time out he allowed one run and three hits over seven innings of a win against the Mets on Friday. He struck out 11 and walked one.

“It’s pretty nasty,” Roman Quinn told of watching Nola’s curveball from center field. “I’ve seen it in live batting practice once before and it’s not something you want to stand in front of. He’s steady rolling and it’s fun to watch him pitch.”

Scherzer hasn’t lost since July 2, going 6-0 with a pair of no-decision since then. Last Friday he threw six shutout innings in an 8-2 victory over the Miami Marlins. He allowed five hits, struck out seven and walked one. At the plate, he doubled for his career-high 16th hit of the season — improving his average to .296 — and scored twice from second base.

“He does it all for us,” Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper told the Washington Post. “Every fifth day, he goes out there and pitches the ball well and runs the pillows really well and scores.”

Scherzer has allowed two earned runs or fewer in each of his last six starts and is 16 strikeouts shy of a fifth consecutive season with at least 250.

Against the Phillies this season, Scherzer picked up a no-decision on May 6 despite allowing one run with 15 strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings. He’s 9-1 with a 2.50 ERA against them in 15 career starts.

Odubel Herrera is 12-for-36 (.333) versus Scherzer, while Asdrubal Cabrera is 15-for-64 (.234), Cesar Hernandez is 8-for-35 (.229) and Maikel Franco is 3-for-23 (.130).

Nola has already beaten the Nationals twice this season, allowing three runs and nine hits over 13 2/3 innings in those two starts. For his career, Nola is 3-4 with a 3.99 ERA in 12 starts.

Harper is 9-for-23 (.391) against Nola with two homers and five RBIs. Anthony Rendon is 6-for-24 (.250) with a homer and Zimmerman is 3-for-20 (.150).