May 22, 2015
For the third time this season, it was Sean O’Sullivan taking on Max Scherzer. And for the third time this season, it was the Nationals beating the Phillies. The home team took the first game of the weekend set at Nationals Park by a 2-1 score. Here’s what I saw:
1. When attacking this Nationals lineup, you immediately turn your attention to Bryce Harper, whose numbers (.336/.475/,750, 16 HR, 39 RBI) are approaching Bondsian territory. Not only is the 22-year-old phenom en fuego in general, it’s safe to say he has Sean O’Sullivan’s number. After tomahawking a high fastball the other way just inside the left-field foul pole, Harper has hit a home run off O’Sullivan in each of the latter’s three starts against Washington this year.
2. I’d bet a large sum of money that this handshake wasn’t Matt Williams’ idea:
3. It’s tough to ask for more out of O’Sullivan. He made a couple of mistakes (Harper’s HR, Ian Desmond’s double in the sixth was a hanger) but gave the Phillies six innings of relatively stress-free two-run ball. Even Harper’s homer was elevated out of the zone, although you could argue it needed to be further so with the count sitting at 0-2 against the hottest hitter on the planet.
1. Scherzer was fortunate that the Phillies scored only one run in the second inning. Ryan Howard and Odubel Herrera each missed homers to deep center field by about a foot, both hammering fastballs.
2. On that note, Denard Span should sleep pretty well tonight, as he was plenty busy. In addition to the second-inning doubles, the Phillies made a lot of loud outs that the Nats center fielder had to get on his horse to track down.
3. Scherzer is really, really good and it’s no mistake that he came into the night sporting a 1.75 ERA, which he lowered. The Phillies had their chances against the former Cy Young winner, but he looked pretty comfortable the whole way. The key stat is the Phillies went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.
4. The start from Scherzer reminded me a little of Roy Halladay circa 2010-2011. Even though the Washington ace didn’t have his best stuff, you look up at the end of the night and he’s pitched eight innings and only given up one run.
5. Two-hit night for Chase Utley, whose average is up to .179. He smoked a double over Span’s head and finally got some BABIP luck on a blooper into shallow left. As always, don’t call it a comeback.
6. FRANCO WATCH: Only one hit for Maikel Franco, a well-placed grounder up the middle in the ninth inning. Scherzer got him out three times.
7. Herrera and Grady Sizemore got the chance to hit with two men on in the ninth against Nats closer Drew Storen, but couldn’t get it done. Sizemore swung at the first pitch and lofted a lazy fly ball to left.
1. Nifty pickoff move by Luis Garcia to nab Michael Taylor at first base. That play was sandwiched by a couple of strikeouts on fastballs that hit 97 and 98 on the gun.
2. Ken Giles scared everyone when Bob McClure, Ryne Sandberg, and the team trainer were summoned to the mound in the middle of his warm-up tosses. As it turned out, it was only a blister on the back of his thumb. Giles threw a scoreless eighth inning, and more importantly, the velocity looked pretty good.
1. Nice play by Freddy Galvis in the fourth inning to turn a 6-3 double play after the pitcher’s mound slowed down a rocket off Harper’s bat. Howard made a difficult scoop at first on the play, as well.
2. Franco has had some hiccups in the field since being called up, but he made a difficult play in the bottom of the fifth that helped out O’Sullivan big-time. With a runner on first and nobody out, Wilson Ramos chopped a ball down the line that Franco backhanded and quickly threw to second for the force out.
3. The aforementioned play sums up how Franco was generally scouted as a fielder. He might’ve been able to cut the ball off earlier (his range was questioned to the point an eventual move to first has been suggested by many scouting types), but once he got to it, the glove and arm should play at third.
4. Not a great job by Herrera on Desmond’s double in the sixth. He ventured too close to the wall on a ball that he could’ve earlier recognized was destined to carom off the top of it. Because of this, Grady Sizemore was forced to back Herrera up and Scherzer scored from first.
Game 2 should a fun one, as Cole Hamels (4-3, 3.24 ERA) tries to keep things rolling against the surprisingly struggling Stephen Strasburg (3-4, 5.98 ERA). It’s one of those late-afternoon affairs, as first pitch is at 4:05 p.m.