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April 07, 2017

Happy home opener ... oh, wait, that's Max Scherzer ... good luck!

The 14-year-old ballpark is decorated with bunting and the oversized American flag is ready to be rolled out over the perfectly manicured green grass. It’s Opening Day in South Philly, as the Phillies are set to play host to the Washington Nationals for the first home game at Citizens Bank Park on their 2017 schedule.

It’s a holiday for baseball fans. We understand this, so if you’re uneasy with any so-called negative or ominous words on a day like today, we completely understand and we’re warning you now.

Home was not very kind to the Phillies last season: they went 37-44, averaging 3.44 runs in their 81 games at CBP in 2016. They were the major league’s worst hitting team at home (.231) and no National League team sported a worse on-base percentage (.291) or slugging percentage (.372) than the Phillies did in their own ballpark last season.

But here’s where it gets worse: the Phillies return home for the first time in 2017 only to take on the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner, right-hander Max Scherzer.

Scherzer is 7-1 with a 2.14 ERA in 11 career starts with the Phillies.

The three Phillies with the worst numbers against Scherzer:

 Maikel Franco .067 1/15  01 0
 Tommy Joseph .000 0/7  0
 Freddy Galvis .200  5/253

The three Phillies with the best numbers against Scherzer:

 Howie Kendrick .3575/14  3
 Cesar Hernandez .292 7/24  7
Odubel Herrera  .2807/25  4

*only among players in today's starting lineup

But since joining the Nationals prior to the 2015 season, Scherzer has managed to be even better than those numbers. He’s undefeated against the Phillies in nine starts and Washington has won eight of the nine games he’s started against their NL East rivals.

Scherzer’s numbers against the Phillies over the last two seasons are startling:

6-0, 1.78 ERA, 0.8376 WHIP, 74 Ks and 16 BB in 65 2/3 IP over nine games.

“He does everything well,” Pete Mackanin said prior to Friday’s game. “He has an above-average fastball that he can locate, he has an above average slider that he can locate. Even with just those two pitches, if he can locate those two pitches. But he’s got a good changeup. It’s all about how you execute pitches, and he does that very well.

“So it’s always a tough task to face a guy like that and hope (that) he makes mistakes. We’ve had games where we’ve beat up on (Zack) Greinke, we beat up on (Chris) Sale last year. You know, the key is of those guys aren’t on that day, you can’t miss. They give you pitches to hit, you can’t miss them. And on a given day if you don’t miss them, you can get to them. If he gives you more good pitches to hit than he normally does then you have to take advantage of that, and if you don’t you’re spinning your wheels.”

Or, as Omar Little once famously said, "when you come at the king, you best not miss."

The good news for the Phillies? The only time they won a game that Scherzer started in the last two seasons came with Vince Velasquez sharing the mound with the Nationals’ ace.

On April 26 of last season at Nationals Park, Andres Blanco followed a four-pitch, leadoff walk from Odubel Herrera to begin the game by ripping an 0-1 pitch over the center field wall for a two-run home run.

After hitting just one home run in 30 innings (four games) in 2015, the Phillies actually collected a modest four home runs against Scherzer last season (five games, 35 2/3 innings). The bad news: only one player who owns a career home run off Scherzer is in the lineup today: Cameron Rupp.

Scherzer's game-by-game stats against Phillies since 2015:

4/12/15 6 8
 4/17/158 1 9
 5/22/1584 61
6/26/15 8 7
4/16/16 7 7
4/26/16  74
6/1/16  11
8/30/16 8 2 111
9/10/16  6 2/34 0 81

Here is today's lineup. First pitch is scheduled for 3:05 p.m.

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @ryanlawrence21
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