Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper was hit twice by Braves pitchers last night, the second of which, thrown by reliever Luis Avilan, garnered a standing ovation from the home crowd in Atlanta. Braves pitchers have been at fault three of the four times Harper has been hit by a pitch this year. Recall that the benches cleared on August 6 when starter Julio Teheran plunked Harper. So there’s definitely some hard feelings at least in one direction.
Harper has been scratched from tonight’s lineup due to a bruise on his left arm sustained from getting hit by Avilan’s fastball, per CSN’s Mark Zuckerman. Zuckerman spoke to manager Davey Johnson, who said he and the clubhouse at large are not happy about the fact that his best player isn’t able to play, but insisted that he hasn’t given his players any instructions to retaliate.
In Harper’s absence, Denard Span will lead off and play center with Scott Hairston in left and Jayson Werth in right.
Nationals starter Max Scherzer bunted a ball into his face during batting practice on Tuesday, breaking his nose in the process. He ended up with a gnarly looking shiner around his right eye, making him appear a bit like Terminator. Scherzer still took the ball to start the second game of Wednesday night’s doubleheader against the Phillies.
Despite the injury, Scherzer was incredibly effective, limiting the Phillies to four hits and two walks across seven shutout innings, striking out 10 batters in the process. He might even have had some extra adrenaline going, as he averaged 96.2 MPH on his fastball, his highest average fastball velocity in a game since September 2012, per MLB.com’s Jamal Collier. The Nationals provided Scherzer with just one run of support, coming on a Brian Dozier solo home run off of Jake Arrieta in the second inning, but it was enough.
Wander Suero worked a scoreless top of the eighth with a pair of strikeouts. Victor Robles added a solo homer off of Pat Neshek in the bottom half. Closer Sean Doolittle took over in the ninth, working a 1-2-3 frame to give the Nats their 2-0 victory.
Over his last six starts, Scherzer now has a 0.88 ERA with a 59/8 K/BB ratio across 41 innings. He has gone six innings, struck out at least nine batters, and held the opposition to two or fewer runs in each of those six starts.