The Philadelphia Phillies will be looking for a series sweep and a four-game winning streak when they visit the Washington Nationals on Thursday.
The Phillies captured their third straight with a narrow 3-2 victory on Wednesday when Brandon Workman allowed two hits and wriggled out of a jam in the ninth inning.
Philadelphia will hand the ball to rookie right-hander Spencer Howard, who has an 0-1 record and a 6.17 ERA in three starts. Howard, one of the most prized prospects in the organization, has yet to pitch more than 4 2/3 innings in any of his three starts.
“Probably some of it stems from not locating off-speed as well so these teams tend to gear more towards the fastball,” Howard said. “I’m just trying to get back to where I can have good locations with all my pitches.”
Manager Joe Girardi said that command is the biggest factor with any young pitcher.
“He just has to locate better with his pitches and his off-speed pitches,” said Girardi, who registered his 1,000th career win as a manager on Wednesday. “That’s the main thing that he needs to do.”
Philadelphia’s Rhys Hoskins homered and Andrew McCutchen had three hits on Wednesday. The Phillies have the utmost confidence in their young pitcher, especially right fielder Bryce Harper.
“He’s got big-league stuff,” Harper said of Howard. “Everybody knows that. It’s just trying to hone it in, calm it down a little bit. He’s going to be just fine for us. We’re very excited about what we’ve seen. He just has to get comfortable and have some fun. Enjoy his time. He’s a guy that’s going to be a dude for us.”
The Nationals will send their ace, Max Scherzer, to the mound to try to avoid a fourth straight loss.
Scherzer (2-1, 4.31 ERA) was 2-1 with a 2.50 ERA in three starts against the Phillies last season. In his stellar career, Scherzer is 11-3 with a 2.62 ERA in 20 starts against Philadelphia.
Last Saturday, Scherzer struggled a bit in allowing seven hits and four runs in 4 2/3 innings against the Miami Marlins.
“I believe that I can pitch in tough spots in the game,” Scherzer said. “Even late in the game, even when my pitch count is over 100, I still believe I can execute in those situations. Unfortunately, the last couple of games, I haven’t done that and I need to get better at that.”
When Scherzer is clicking, he’s able to locate his arsenal of pitches with pinpoint control. Over the past two outings, he simply hasn’t been as precise.
“There were a couple batters I had some bad locations and another couple times I didn’t hit my spot,” Scherzer said after his last outing. “They were able to just get a hit and were able to extend the inning. Then when it got down to really needing to get an out … I just wasn’t able to get the job done. I wasn’t able to locate.”
In Washington’s Wednesday loss, Juan Soto hit his eighth home run of the season, a solo shot to the opposite field in left.
–Field Level Media