Postgame analysis of the Nats' 8-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday night at Citizens Bank Park:
How it happened: The Phillies entered this weekend's series with the Nationals as one of the 2016 MLB season's early surprises, a team playing .500 ball despite a young and rebuilding roster, ready for a big test in the World Series-hopeful Nats. Through two games, though, it may be clear just how much distance still separates these franchises, as the Nats once again dominated their NL East foes in another blowout, this one with 8-1 as its final score. Max Scherzer put in his cleanest start of the season so far, Bryce Harper homered for the third consecutive game and Daniel Murphy notched his second triple of the season, as Phillies starter Aaron Nola was no match for Washington's lineup on this particular night.
What it means: The Nationals are taking advantage of a favorable stretch in their schedule, but there is no reason to downplay how good they have looked so far. Saturday night's win continued a franchise-best start to the regular season, as they now stand 9-1 through their first 10 games. Winners of seven straight, they have the best record in baseball and are showing no signs of slowing down. After Saturday's win, they boast a +28 run differential. They have outscored opponents 28-5 in their last five games.
Bryce likes Philly: Phillies fans may not like Harper, as they boo him every chance they get, but there must be something about playing in Philly that suits Bryce well. He homered again on Saturday night - a two-run bomb in the top of the fifth inning - that now gives him home runs in five straight games at Citizens Bank Park. Five straight games. He also has homers in three straight games overall going back to last series against the Braves. Harper now has five homers in 10 games this season, which puts him well on pace to break the career-high of 42 he set last season. Harper also drove in the first run of the game on a sacrifice fly to left field in the top of the first and is now hitting. .343 on the season.
Scherzer puts in best outing so far: Scherzer was coming off an uncharacteristic start his last time out when he gave up four earned runs on six hits and three walks, but he bounced back nicely on Saturday night to carve up the Phillies. Scherzer allowed just one run on a solo homer to Cameron Rupp in the fifth inning in the Nats' win. He struck out seven and walked one on a season-high 100 pitches in seven innings of work. The Nationals' rotation has been on quite the tear overall. With Scherzer's outing, Nats starters now boast a 0.76 ERA over the last turn of the rotation (5 GS, 35.1 IP). And like his rotation-mate Joe Ross the night before, Scherzer also hit a double in the Nats' win, and his drove in two runs.
Murphy can't be stopped: Murphy's first-inning triple scored Ryan Zimmerman and was one of three straight RBI hits by the Nats. Murphy now has two triples in 10 games this season, matching his total from all of 2015. Murphy has hits in nine of his 10 games this season and has reached base 21 times in 29 plate appearances. The Nats second baseman will cool off at some point, but he has certainly come as-advertised with seven walks and seven strikeouts so far this season. The power numbers (2 HR, 3 2B, 2 3B) are just a bonus.
Up next: The Nats aim for their second consecutive series sweep with Gio Gonzalez on the mound in the Sunday finale. He'll pitch opposite veteran Charlie Morton (1-1, 5.23). First pitch is at 1:35.