FINAL: Yankees 6, Nationals 1
GAME IN A NUTSHELL: A prime pitching matchup between Max Scherzer and Masahiro Tanaka. Bryce Harper making his first career appearance at Yankee Stadium. What wasn't to like on Tuesday? Well, for the Nationals, the end result. And all-too-familiar result for this team over the last couple weeks.
Scherzer and Tanaka engaged in a compelling pitchers' duel for most of the night, with Stephen Drew homering off Scherzer in the third and Harper answering with a solo homer (his 20th) off Tanaka in the fourth. But then the seventh inning arrived, and that's when this game turned.
With his pitch count climbing first over 100 and then over 110, Scherzer got into a jam. He nearly got out of it, though, when Ian Desmond made a spectacular diving stop of Alex Rodriguez's hard smash to the hole at shortstop. Desmond, though, tried to get the lead runner at third and wound up hitting Ramos Flores, the ball skipping into the dugout for an error. And then lefty Matt Thornton couldn't stop the bleeding, letting three more runs score on 2-out hits by Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran.
Suddenly trailing by 4 runs, the Nationals had no response for the Yankees' dominant bullpen. They went silent the rest of the night and trudged away following a particularly difficult loss, their ninth in 11 games.
HITTING LOWLIGHT: Ryan Zimmerman has a track record that suggests he'll put up his usual numbers by season's end. But to do that in 2015, he's going to have to go on quite a run the rest of the way, because he has dug himself quite a hole. With an 0-for-4 showing Tuesday night, Zimmerman now finds himself in a 4-for-46 funk. His season batting average has dropped to .209. Beyond the numbers, the veteran slugger just doesn't look like himself at the plate. Is his plantar fasciitis to blame? Perhaps. Whether it is or isn't, Zimmerman's unproductive bat right now is really hurting the Nats.
PITCHING LOWLIGHT: As he did last week against the Blue Jays, Scherzer gave up only one early run and then clamped down, only to give up a bit hit late. Last time, it was a 3-run homer to Kevin Pillar. This time, it was a string of hits in the seventh, with his pitch count surpassing 110 and ultimately winding up at 116. Yes, Scherzer would've gotten out of it had Desmond been able to make the play on Rodriguez's hard smash. But he would've been mighty fortunate to escape that jam, which included several well-struck balls off the tiring ace.
KEY STAT: Harper is only the fourth player in the last two decades with three 20-homer seasons before turning 23. The others: Mike Trout, Giancarlo Stanton and Alex Rodriguez.
UP NEXT: This brief series concludes with a 1:05 p.m. Wednesday matinee. It's Gio Gonzalez against Nathan Eovaldi at Yankee Stadium.