PHILADELPHIA -- This is pretty much what everybody expected from Max Scherzer, isn't it?
He pitched well against the Phillies in his season debut Friday afternoon in a 7-6 victory at Citizens Bank Park. Scherzer missed time in Spring Training and started the fourth game of the season because a stress fracture in the knuckle of his right ring finger put him behind schedule. But he showed he is healthy, allowing just four hits, two runs, two walks and striking out seven in 6 2/3 innings to spoil the Phillies' home opener, despite Philadelphia scoring four runs against the Nationals' bullpen to make it close.
"We'll figure it out," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "We're just kind of still in the process of figuring out where to slot guys in that part of the game."
Bryce Harper staked Scherzer to a 2-0 lead in the first inning, hitting a two-run home run to right field against Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez. It was Harper's 12th homer at the Bank, the most he has hit in any visiting ballpark. Daniel Murphy hit a two-run homer to right in the third to make it 4-0.
Nationals left fielder Jayson Werth hit a three-run homer to left field in the fifth to take a 7-0 lead.
It looked like a rout at that point, but the Nationals needed every single one of those runs. The Phillies scored a run in the sixth and Aaron Altherr homered in a three-run seventh to make it a three-run game. Freddy Galvis then hit a two-run home run to right in the ninth to make it 7-6.
"I think it's a good omen for things to come," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said about the near comeback. "These guys are not going to quit."
But Blake Treinen avoided further damage, holding onto the Nats' third win of the season.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED A fortuitous bounce: Scherzer walked Brock Stassi and Tommy Joseph on eight pitches to start the seventh. He then uncorked an errant pitch, sending Stassi to third and Joseph to second. But the ball ricocheted hard off the brick wall behind home plate and back into catcher Matt Wieters' hand. Wieters made a perfect throw to get Stassi for the first out. Mackanin said, "it would have been a different ballgame," with any other bounce.
"Galvis after that inning said, 'I've been playing here for .. years and that's the first time I've seen that happen,'" Stassi said. "I was like, ah, figures it would happen to me in my first game here."
Velasquez entices, frustrates: Velasquez struck out 10 batters in just four innings, but he also threw 94 pitches to force his early exit. Velasquez's lack of pitch efficiency forced him from games early last season. It made Mackanin go to left-hander Joely Rodriguez in the fifth. He allowed the three-run homer to Werth.
"It's just a lack of performance on my end," Velasquez said. "It's just frustrating. It's frustrating to have a show like that at the end, and we can't come out on top because of my performance." More >
"There's a lot of things I can improve upon to sharpen up in my next start, but to have that go as well as it did today considering from where I've been in spring to now have fastball command, it's nice." -- Scherzer, on Friday's outing
"I thought for sure [Howie] Kendrick or [Odubel] Herrera was going to hit a home run there. I called one of the two." -- Mackanin, on the Phillies having the winning run at the plate with one out in the ninth. Instead, Kendrick flied out and Herrera grounded out to end the game.
"I was just happy to be back in Philadelphia. I've always loved this place, the fans, and playing at this ballpark means a lot to me." -- Werth, on returning to Philadelphia and hearing boos from the crowd
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The Phillies struck out 17 batters (Velasquez 10, Rodriguez 3, Joaquin Benoit 1, Hector Neris 1, Jeanmar Gomez 2), one shy of the team's nine-inning record. They struck out 18 on May 6, 2011, against the Braves. Cliff Lee struck out 16 and J.C. Romero and Danys Baez each struck out one in a 5-0 loss.
WHAT'S NEXT Nationals: The Nationals will promote Jeremy Guthrie to start Saturday's 7:05 p.m. ET game against the Phillies. A non-roster invitee to camp, Guthrie impressed the Nationals with a 2.41 ERA in 18 2/3 innings in Spring Training.
Phillies: Right-hander Aaron Nola makes his season debut Saturday night against the Nationals at Citizens Bank Park. It is a big start for Nola, who missed much of the second half last season with an injured right elbow. Nola's velocity looked good this spring, but he struggled with control and command. The Phillies hope for better against Washington.