PHILADELPHIA - Max Scherzer appears to have his good stuff, and his mound strut, going early tonight, which could mean trouble for the Phillies.
Scherzer is through three scoreless innings, allowing just two singles while striking out five as the right-hander attempts to pitch the Nationals to a series sweep at Citizens Bank Park.
Ryan Zimmerman's RBI double in the top of the first gave the Nationals a quick 1-0 lead, and Scherzer has taken over since then.
Scherzer cruised through his first inning, striking out both Odubel Herrera and Andres Blanco to set the tone for the evening. Working fast and strutting around the mound with confidence, he has barely had to pitch out of the stretch: Only after Cameron Rupp blooped a single to shallow right field in the bottom of the second, then after Herrera singled to right with two outs in the third.
That's the extent of the Phillies offense so far tonight. Scherzer struck out Freddy Galvis after allowing the single, then retired the side in the bottom of the third, striking out David Lough.
Zimmerman's run-scoring double was a bullet down the right field line, the latest well-struck ball by the surging first baseman. Over his last 17 games, Zimmerman now boasts a 1.014 OPS.
This hit came after Daniel Murphy took a fastball off his left arm, a development that left the .397-hitting second baseman slamming his bat to the ground and yelling at pitcher Adam Morgan. Murphy calmed down and took his spot at first base, then raced 270 feet to score on Zimmerman's double.
Murphy has been wearing a protective sleeve over his left arm since the plunking.
Update: And the Nats have broken this game open, thanks in large part to Wilson Ramos. Ramos' fourth-inning single scored Anthony Rendon to make it 2-0. Then his sixth-inning, opposite-field homer made it 5-0. Ramos is 3-for-3 with four RBIs tonight, and he's now hitting .340 with seven homers and 29 RBIs through 54 games this season. And if that wasn't enough, Danny Espinosa also homered in the sixth, his fourth in seven days. The Nats lead 6-0, and Scherzer is cruising.
Update II: The Nats made it 7-0 on Murphy's triple and Zimmerman's sacrifice line drive in the top of the seventh, but the Phillies got on the board in the bottom of the inning on Tyler Goeddel's two-run homer. That's the 16th surrendered by Scherzer in 12 starts this season, but it really shouldn't make much difference tonight. He's through seven innings with 11 strikeouts, and the Nats lead 7-2.
Update III: It's over. Nats win 7-2. They sweep the series, and now after a day off continue their road trip in Cincinnati on Friday night.