After his first opening day start didn't end well in his Washington Nationals debut, $210 million man Max Scherzer is seeking a better result in his second outing.
The ace right-hander will try to earn his first victory while helping the light-hitting Nationals avoid their worst start in six years Sunday in the finale of a three-game road set against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Scherzer (0-1, 0.00 ERA) worked through some butterflies in his start Monday, but for the most part lived up to the lucrative contract - the second-largest for a pitcher - that Washington gave him in the offseason.
Manager Matt Williams said he was as good "as advertised" after taking a no-hitter into the sixth inning. Ian Desmond, however, made two errors that led to three unearned runs in a 3-1 home loss to the New York Mets.
The 2013 AL Cy Young winner retired 17 straight batters at one point before leaving with two outs in the eighth. He gave up four hits with eight strikeouts in his first regular-season defeat in six outings since Aug. 30.
"All of his pitches are pretty much plus pitches," second baseman Dan Uggla told MLB's official website. "He knows what he is doing. He has a plan when he goes out there, and he executes it. That's why he got the big contract that he did."
Scherzer, who hasn't lost the first two starts in any of his eight seasons, has only faced the Phillies (3-2) once since 2008. He allowed just one hit and fanned seven over six innings of a 10-0 win July 27, 2013, while with Detroit.
Jeff Francoeur has gone 1 for 10 with three strikeouts and Grady Sizemore is hitless in six at-bats against Scherzer over the past three seasons, though Ben Revere has gone 5 for 9 with a triple in that time.
Ryan Howard had two doubles and Carlos Ruiz and Andres Blanco each had two hits Saturday when the Phillies rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the eighth inning for a 3-2 win. Odubel Herrera came through with a walk-off double in the 10th.
"I'm very pleased my first hit of my career was this special," Herrera said through a translator.
Washington (1-4), which is missing Anthony Rendon, Jayson Werth and Denard Span to injuries, is batting .183 with nine runs scored. Yunel Escobar had two of the club's seven hits Saturday, while Wilson Ramos delivered his first home run.
Ryan Zimmerman is 2 for 19 on the season after his 16-game hitting streak versus Philadelphia ended in an 0-for-5 effort. Since going 4 for 7 with a homer in his first two games, Bryce Harper is 1 for 11 with seven strikeouts in his past three.
The Nationals, looking to avoid their worst start since dropping the first seven in 2009, are in danger of getting swept in a three-game series at Philadelphia for the second time since last August.
Sean O'Sullivan (0-1, 6.39 ERA in 2014) will try to take advantage of their slump in his first start since Aug. 7. He's expected to be recalled from Triple-A Lehigh Valley to fill in until Chad Billingsley is able to return following elbow surgery last June.
The right-hander has gone 9-16 with a 6.07 ERA in 39 career starts for the Los Angeles Angels, Kansas City, San Diego and the Phillies. He's yet to face Washington in 53 appearances over five seasons.