Two aces on deck in Nationals-Phillies matchup

Two Cy Young Award frontrunners will meet for the second time in less than a week Tuesday night in Philadelphia.

Aaron Nola will square off against Max Scherzer as the Philadelphia Phillies host the Washington Nationals in the second contest of a three-game set at Citizens Bank Park.

Washington was a 5-3 winner Monday night in the series opener, which pushed Philadelphia (70-61) 3 1/2 games behind the Atlanta Braves in the National League East.

Nola (15-3, 2.13 ERA) and Scherzer (16-6, 2.13) did not disappoint in their meeting last week. But Nola got the best of the two-time defending NL Cy Young winner, improving to 3-0 versus Washington this season.

Nola threw eight scoreless innings and had nine strikeouts in the Phillies’ 2-0 win. Nola allowed five hits and one walk in the outing, which marked the 15th time in 26 starts that he gave up one earned run or fewer.

The start was accentuated by an eighth-inning strikeout of Bryce Harper, the last batter Nola faced. His manager made a case for Nola as the league’s top pitcher after the game.

“It’s tough to account for three pitches, and I think part of that is why Aaron Nola in my opinion is the Cy Young this year,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler told MLB.com “Of course, Nola is our guy. I watch him every time out there and just the dependability, the consistency, the creativity, the numbers. The numbers speak for themselves.”

Nola and Scherzer are tied for the second-best ERA in the NL. New York Mets right-hander Jacob deGrom, the other pitcher in the Cy Young conversation, has the only better ERA at 1.71.

Nola is tied for second in the National League in WHIP (0.97), third in innings pitched (169) and tied for fifth in strikeouts (169). Scherzer leads the league in all three of those categories.

Going for his third straight NL Cy Young win and fourth trophy overall, Scherzer has posted dominant numbers in 2018. He has 244 strikeouts, 181 2/3 innings pitched and a 0.89 WHIP through 27 starts.

He had 10 strikeouts against the Phillies on Thursday, marking the 14th time he has hit double digits this season. The only damage against the 34-year-old in his last start was a two-run homer from Odubel Herrera.

“That was the one pitch that beat me,” Scherzer told MLB.com after the loss.

Scherzer’s best strikeout game of the year came May 6 against the Phillies when he struck out 15 batters in 6 1/3 innings. Scherzer is 9-2 with a 2.51 ERA and 0.96 WHIP in 16 career starts against Philadelphia.

Nola, meanwhile, has a 3.57 career ERA against the Nationals, and he has limited them to three earned runs in three starts (21 2/3 innings) this season. The 25-year-old also has a perfect record at home this season. Nola is 9-0 with a 2.00 ERA and 10 strikeouts per nine innings at Citizens Bank Park.

The Phillies, who are 41-23 at home this season, have lost 12 of their last 18 games and are 3 1/2 games back in the division for the first time since June 26.

The Nationals (66-66) are 13-13 in August and eight games behind Atlanta.