On Thursday, we were able to witness a pitcher’s duel with two of the three Cy Young frontrunners on the same mound. Aaron Nola of the Phillies and Max Scherzer of the Nationals squared off on the Nationals Park mound while Jacob deGrom pitched on that same day in his pursuit of the Cy Young crown. Tonight, all three pitchers are showcasing for the NL Cy Young voters, and Nola and Scherzer will once again face each other. The weather conditions should be different as it will be warmer and there won’t be Half Street wind blowing in from leftfield like we saw last Thursday. Juan Soto put two “A” swings on Nola pitches where the wind robbed him of a 2-run home run and a double. For his effort, Nola pitched a shutout, and Scherzer was victimized by one cutter that was hit for a 2-run homer to rightfield by the Phillies lefty Odubel Herrera in the seventh inning of what was a scoreless game.
Last week, Nola was clever enough to throw his fastballs outside against the lefty batters in order to use that “oppo” wind to push back the distance on any baseballs floating through that leftfield air. When they say you should pitch to your defense, Nola pitched to the wind currents. These are the types of games that baseball purists love to watch when two aces are facing off. The feel is like a post-season game. Every pitch matters. Every swing could change the final vote for the NL Cy Young. As of today, Scherzer and Nola have the same ERA of 2.13. Speaking of ERA, Jacob deGrom enters today with the best ERA of 1.71 and Nola and deGrom are tied with a WHIP of 0.97 which is behind Scherzer’s best of 0.89.
For those that believe a Cy Young candidate needs to pitch north of 200 innings and control the game with the most strikeouts, Max Scherzer leads the Cy contenders in innings pitched and strikeouts by a large margin. Scherzer actually has a shot at 300 K’s this season while Nola will struggle to get to 200 strikeouts.
“The three of them are really good. It’s a good [Cy Young] race,” Davey Martinez said. “I’m biased to Max because I’ve known what he’s done, and I see him everyday. Hopefully we go out there today and we get [Max Scherzer] some points and get the win today.”
For Nationals manager Dave Martinez, his main goal tonight is winning, and he wants his batters to be aggressive tonight.
“[Nola] throws a lot of strikes, just have to be aggressive and put the ball in play,” Martinez said.
The Nationals fouled off a lot of good pitches and Nola’s outing ended Thursday with two men on base and Bryce Harper in the batter’s box. Nola struck him out on a swing and miss on an inside curveball then two straight fastballs on the outer third of the plate.
When the strikeout is against a poor pitcher, you can usually be upset at yourself versus striking out against an ace where you can usually give props to the pitcher. The main adjustment the Nationals hitters must make is not chasing Nola’s curveball that falls below the zone or his fastball above the zone.
Washington Nationals vs. Philadelphia Phillies
Stadium: Citizens Bank Ballpark, Philadephia, Pennsylvania
1st Pitch: 7:05 pm EDT
TV: MASN2; MLB.TV app out-of-network
Nats Radio: 106.7 The Fan and via the MLB app
Line-ups subject to change without notice:
- Adam Eaton RF
- Trea Turner SS
- Bryce Harper CF
- Anthony Rendon 3B
- Juan Soto LF
- Ryan Zimmerman 1B
- Matt Wieters C
- Wilmer Difo 2B
- Max Scherzer RHP