WASHINGTON — From the start, this was not going to be a good matchup for the Phillies. They seldom fare well against Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer, last year's National League Cy Young winner.
Scherzer was the winning pitcher in an 11-10 Washington victory on Friday night. He is 9-1 in 14 career starts against the Phils.
The Phillies took an early 3-0 lead on Scherzer, but it vanished amid the adventures — or misadventures — of Odubel Herrera in center field.
The Phillies pulled within a run on a pair of late-game three-run homers by Rhys Hoskins and Maikel Franco before Nationals closer Sean Doolittle came on and nailed down the win with three strikeouts. Doolittle's second strikeout came against Jorge Alfaro. The Phillies catcher snapped his bat in half over his knee after the strikeout. That's a strong man.
The Phillies are a majors-worst 53-88.
Washington's magic number for clinching the NL East title is down to three.
• Herrera misplayed a line drive by Michael A. Taylor into an inside-the-park grand slam in the bottom of the third inning. Herrera, at first, broke in on the ball. Then he scurried back. Then he jumped flat-footed for the ball. It rolled to the wall, Herrera jogged after it and Taylor circled the bases (see story). Earlier in the inning, second baseman Cesar Hernandez booted a tailor-made double-play ball.
• Herrera's miscues did not stop with the misplay in the third inning. In the fifth, he was taking his time getting set in the batter's box and Scherzer whistled a third-strike fastball by him. Herrera is notorious for being slow to get set and Scherzer taught him a lesson. Or did he? Time will tell. And, no, Herrera was not asking for time out when he raised his left hand. He does that every time, as if to tell the umpire he's not ready. But once he's in the box, he's fair game.
• While Herrera struggled in center field, Taylor excelled there for the Nationals. He cut down a run at the plate with a perfect throw in the seventh. On Thursday night, he robbed a home run from Andres Blanco. Taylor had four hits, adding a triple late in the game.
• Phillies starter Jake Thompson was hardly sharp, but his defense was awful.
• Freddy Galvis was not in the starting lineup for the first time this season as the Phillies looked at rookie J.P. Crawford at shortstop (see story). Crawford had two hits, including his first extra-base hit, and drove in a run. He is expected to play second base on Saturday night. Galvis pinch hit in the sixth inning, so he has played in all 141 games. He will return to shortstop Saturday night.
• The Phillies did some early damage against Scherzer. He walked two in the first inning then surrendered a three-run homer to rookie Nick Williams. Williams turned around a 93-mph fastball with a short, quick, powerful stroke. It was his 10th homer — he also has 43 RBIs — since coming up on June 30. Before the game, general manager Matt Klentak raved about the production and energy Williams has brought to the club.
"It's going on three months of production from him. I can't say enough about what Nick has brought to this team," Klentak said. "He deserves all the credit for it — just the style of play, the energy level that he brings. It's contagious. I know the players and the coaching staff would share that sentiment. He has enough of a sample now that this looks like the player Nick Williams is. And that's not to say he can't get better. He's making improvements at the major-league level. Where some players come up and struggle and take steps back, he appears to be going the other way. He's been a very positive development success story."
• Hoskins, who batted third, belted a three-run homer off lefty Oliver Perez in the seventh. It was his 13th homer in 29 games with the club. Seven of the Phillies' runs were driven in by rookies — three each by Williams and Hoskins and one by Crawford.
• Phillies pitchers threw a bunch of hanging breaking balls in this game.
• Howie Kendrick has played an important role in Washington's banged-up outfield since coming over from the Phillies at the trade deadline. He entered the game hitting .310 with six doubles, two triples, five homers and 22 RBIs since the trade. He made a heads-up base-running play in the first inning when he went first to third on a base hit to leftfielder Hyun Soo Kim. He eventually scored. Kendrick's time with the Phillies was brief and he had two stints on the disabled list, but he does a lot of little things right. Word is the Nats are thrilled with the pickup.
• Another pitching injury: Promising reliever Jesen Therrien is out for the season with an injury to the ulna collateral ligament in his right elbow. Therrien is still being evaluated medically, but Tommy John surgery is a possibility. Therrien struggled in 15 appearances in the majors after putting himself on the map with some excellent work at Double A and Triple A earlier this season.
• Herrera did manage an infield hit, improving his hitting streak to 21 games, longest in the majors this season.
• The series continues on Saturday night with Mark Leiter Jr. (2-5, 4.74) opposing Washington right-hander Edwin Jackson (5-4, 3.29).