PHILADELPHIA - Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and Jayson Werth all launched multi-run homers, and Max Scherzer dominated the Phillies once again at Citizens Bank Park. But what should’ve been an easy Nationals victory this afternoon instead turned into near-disaster before Blake Treinen hung on for dear life to wrap up a 7-6 victory.
An announced crowd of 45,121 braved wind chills in the 30s for the Phillies’ home opener, only to suffer through a shellacking for five innings at the hands of the visitors, who took a commanding 7-0 lead.
That lead withered away, though, as the crowd thinned over the final innings. The Nationals gave up a run in the sixth, three more in the seventh and then two more in the ninth.
Treinen, pitching for the third straight day and having now pitched in all four of his team’s games, entered for the ninth with a three-run lead. That quickly turned into a one-run lead, though, when Cameron Rupp singled and Freddy Galvis launched a towering homer to right. The first-time closer bounced back, though, getting Odúbel Herrera to ground out to first to secure his third save in four attempts.
Scherzer led the way early with 6 2/3 innings of two-run ball in his first start of the season, showing no signs at all of his abbreviated spring. The reigning National League Cy Young Award winner, who made only three exhibition starts after recovering from a fractured ring finger, did not allow a hit until the fourth, a run until the sixth and a walk until the seventh in an impressive performance.
It’s nothing new for Scherzer to dominate this opponent in this ballpark. Since signing with the Nats in 2015, he’s now 7-0 with a 2.49 ERA in 10 starts against the Phillies, 5-0 with a 2.06 ERA in six starts at Citizens Bank Park.
Scherzer retired the first 10 batters he faced, conjuring memories of his string of no-hit bids from the last two years, including a couple in this stadium. That attempt at history was quashed with one out in the fourth when Howie Kendrick doubled and Herrera singled, though Scherzer escaped with nobody crossing the plate.
He finally succumbed in the sixth on a César Hernández double and a Herrera RBI single. Two walks to open the seventh continued Scherzer’s downward trend, and manager Dusty Baker finally pulled him a few minutes later, with his pitch count at 98.
Left-hander Sammy Solis entered and wound up allowing one inherited runner to score, plus two of his own making, thanks to Aaron Altherr’s homer to right. What had been a 7-0 lead was now down to 7-4, forcing Baker to use the back end of his bullpen on a day he wished it wouldn’t be necessary.
The Phillies brought the tying run to the plate in the eighth, but rookie Koda Glover recorded three straight outs to get out of that mess before handing things over to Treinen.
The late-game drama couldn’t entirely overshadow the early-game fireworks from the Nationals lineup, which made the most of three long bombs.
Harper got things started with a two-run homer in the top of the first, taking Vince Velasquez deep to right. Murphy duplicated the feat in the top of the third with his own two-run blast to right-center.
Werth provided the biggest blow of them all, taking reliever Joely Rodríguez deep to left in the top of the fifth and drawing plenty of boos from a Philly fan base that seven years later still hasn’t forgiven the outfielder for leaving town and moving to Washington.