Philadelphia Phillies manager Gabe Kapler obviously has a rooting interest. Still, if it were his call, Aaron Nola would win this year’s NL Cy Young Award.
“Just the dependability, the consistency, the creativity,” Kapler said. “The numbers. The numbers speak for themselves.”
All of it was on display Thursday as Nola outdueled Max Scherzer in a meeting of All-Star aces, Odubel Herrera hit a two-run homer in the seventh inning and Philadelphia defeated the Washington Nationals 2-0.
Nola (15-3) was masterful in his matchup with the three-time Cy Young Award winner, allowing five hits and one walk. He escaped his biggest jam with his final pitch, striking out Bryce Harper with runners on first and second to end the eighth.
“That was a tough battle,” Nola said. “I got behind in the count right there and a couple curveballs kind of slipped out of my hand a little bit. But I felt confident in my fastball to place it where I needed to.”
Nola struck out nine and has a 2.13 ERA — the exact same ERA as Scherzer. Along with Mets star Jacob deGrom, they are considered the top candidates for the NL Cy Young this season.
Playoff-contending Philadelphia avoided its first five-game losing streak of the season and salvaged the finale of the three-game series.
“I think there’s a lot of pitchers around the league who hitters tend to get more comfortable (with),” Kapler said. “It seems like hitters get less comfortable every time they face Aaron Nola. Right when we needed him most, right when we needed him to step up, he really just put the team on his shoulders and carried us today.”
Scherzer (16-6) was nearly as good in the first matchup of starters with at least 150 innings and a sub-2.25 ERA since St. Louis’ John Tudor faced Mets ace Dwight Gooden on Sept. 11, 1985. Scherzer gave up two hits in seven innings and struck out 10, increasing his major league-leading total to 244.
Scherzer held the Phillies hitless until the fifth, when Jorge Alfaro’s grounder took a hop and skipped past shortstop Trea Turner. There was a smattering of boos when the official scoring of a single was posted on the scoreboard.
The Phillies only other hit off Scherzer came in the seventh. After Maikel Franco’s one-out walk, Herrera launched his 20th home run of the season into the right field seats above the Nationals’ bullpen.
“You fall behind enough guys, you fall behind enough counts, eventually you get beat by making a mistake and that’s what happened today,” Scherzer said.
Herrera is the first Philadelphia center fielder with 20 home runs since Aaron Rowand in 2007.
Pat Neshek pitched a perfect ninth for his fourth save.
Phillies: LHP Luis Avilan reported to the Phillies a day after being acquired from the Chicago White Sox, and C Andrew Knapp was recalled from Triple-A Lehigh Valley. 1B Justin Bour (left oblique strain) and RHP Edubray Ramos (right index finger blister) were both placed on the 10-day disabled list.
Nationals: 1B Ryan Zimmerman received a routine rest for a day game after a night game. Zimmerman hit a game-ending home run Wednesday and is hitting .360 with six homers and 17 RBIs in his last 15 games.
Thursday marked Scherzer’s first start since the Nationals traded 1B Matt Adams and 2B Daniel Murphy on Tuesday. Washington has been at least five games out of first place in the NL East every day since June 30.
“It’s frustrating, but it’s also been a frustrating season for us as a whole,” Scherzer said of the deals.
Washington reliever Greg Holland struck out the side in the ninth and has not allowed a run in 7 1/3 innings since signing with the Nationals.
“He’s looking much better,” manager Dave Martinez said. “I know (pitching coach Derek Lilliquist) tweaked his mechanics a little bit. We talked to him about using his fastball a little bit more and he got up to 95 today, which was nice to see.”
Phillies: RHP Jake Arrieta (9-8, 3.25 ERA) starts the opener of a three-game set at Toronto, Philadelphia’s final interleague series of the season.
Nationals: LHP Gio Gonzalez (7-10, 4.51), who has given up at least five runs in four of his last six starts, faces the Mets as Washington begins a three-game series in New York.