2019 Postgame Recaps

Bryce Harper homers in return to D.C., Phillies trounce Nats


WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 2: Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Bryce Harper (3) comes into the on deck circle against his former team during the game between the Phillies and the Washington Nationals on April 2, 2019, at Nationals Park, in Washington D.C. (Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire)

Final: Phillies 8, Nationals 2

Tuesday evening’s Philadelphia Phillies-Washington Nationals matchup drew national attention because it was Bryce Harper’s first game back in D.C., where he spent the first seven years of his career. But the game took on a similar tone to two games last August when the Phillies defeated the Nationals with Max Scherzer on the mound. The takeaway you are left with? Gabe Kapler, Odubel Herrera and the Phillies have figured out a formula for how to bleed out victories when facing a pitcher who will likely have a plaque in Cooperstown one day. And with Harper and Jean Segura in the fold now, there was room for some explosion after pushing Scherzer out.

Shibe Vintage Sports Starting Pitching Performance

Max Scherzer wasn’t off Tuesday night – far from it, really. The three-time Cy Young Award winner struck out nine Phillies across five innings, and did so with his typical filth:

The problem for Scherzer, like when Aaron Nola outdueled him at Nationals Park last August, is that the Phillies forced him to exhaust a lot of pitches in a short amount of time. The 34-year-old is one of the last true workhorses in the sport, but he was forced to throw 96 pitches across five innings, knocking him out of the game.

To suggest the Phillies got to Scherzer would be a bit misleading, but they were able to scratch out two runs against him, one of which was earned. That earned run came off the bat of Maikel Franco, who already has three home runs (and reached base five times tonight):

Of course, for the Phillies to bleed out wins against Scherzer, they need to get dominant pitching of their own. That’s what happened twice in August of 2018 when Nola squared off with Scherzer. Tuesday, Zach Eflin had an impressive season debut, striking out nine Nationals and allowing just three hits over five frames:

Eflin probably could have pitched at least another inning, but his spot came up in the lineup in the the top of the sixth inning, and Kapler elected to use Nick Williams to pinch-hit with a chance to add some insurance runs. However, prior to exiting the game, Eflin worked out of a jam with two runners on and no one out by striking out two of the last three batters he faced.

All in all, it was a very impressive 2019 debut for Eflin. There was some disappointment that the Phillies didn’t bump Nola up on four days rest to pitch against Scherzer Tuesday. Instead, Eflin turned in a strong showing and set the Phillies up for a chance to sweep a two-game set from the Nationals Wednesday with Nola on the mound.

Phillies Nuggets Player of the Game: Bryce Harper

On a normal night, this likely would have gone to Odubel Herrera. Herrera, after drawing some criticism in Sunday night’s win, doubled three times. His first at-bat went into the scorebook as a fly out to left field, but he narrowly missed tagging Scherzer for a home run.

Also, Jean Segura, who laced a bases-clearing opposite-field double in the sixth inning, finished the evening with three hits.

But the night belonged to one man: Bryce Harper.

Harper was booed heavily every time he came to the plate or trotted out to right field Tuesday night:

The only time anything involving Harper drew cheers from Nationals fans was when Max Scherzer struck him out in his first two at-bats of the game:

However, in Harper’s final at-bat against Scherzer, he laced a double into right field.

His next at-bat followed the aforementioned double by Segura. Harper plated him with his first RBI as a visiting player at Nationals Park. After keeping an even keel for much of the game, Harper exploded with emotion after his RBI:

A large contingent of Phillies fans made their way down to Washington to watch Harper’s first game back. Following his double, Harper turned around and pointed to the fans, acknowledging the increasing volume of their cheers. Ahead of the bottom of the sixth, Harper took more time to show his appreciation for the Phillies fans who had made the trip to D.C.:

And for good measure, Harper hit a second-deck home run off of former Phillie Jeremy Hellickson in the top of the eighth inning, his third home run of the young season:

It may not top LeBron James’ initial return to Cleveland as a member of the Miami Heat, but Harper turned in one of the great returns in sports history. Mike Trout is the best player in the sport – by a large margin. But Harper has a WWE type flair for the spotlight that no other player in the sport has, and it’s great for baseball. And he’s a pretty damn good hitter, too.

Next Game

  • Wednesday April 3, 1:05 p.m. ET at Nationals Park
  • NBC Sports Philadelphia, MLB Network
  • SportsRadio 94 WIP

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