5. Scherzer's final 2015 start: After a dominant first-half in his first season in Washington's rotation, 31-year-old right-hander Max Scherzer has "struggled" comparatively in the second-half, with a 4.11 ERA, 3.89 FIP, 20 walks (2.05 BB/9), 109 Ks (11.19 K/9) and a .251/.301/.472 line against in 87 ⅔ IP after starting his time with the Nationals by putting up a 2.11 ERA, a 2.26 FIP, 14 walks (0.95 BB/9), 150 Ks (10.23 K/9) and a .183/.214/.299 line against in 132 innings before the All-Star Game.
It's the home run ball that's really hurt Scherzer since the break, however, with the Nats' $210M arm giving up 17 so far in the second half (1.75 HR/9) after he allowed just 10 in the first half (0.68 HR/9).
Scherzer took the mound tonight (2-1) in six September starts, over which he's put up a 3.02 ERA, a 3.50 FIP, eight walks (1.73 BB/9) and 50 Ks (10.80 K/9) in 41 ⅔ IP, giving up seven home runs (1.51 HR/9) while holding opposing hitters to a combined .239/.274/.445 line.
One of Scherzer's six starts this month was against the New York Mets he was facing tonight. He gave up seven hits, three of them home runs and five runs total in six innings on September 7th, in an 8-5 loss in Nationals Park.
Michael Conforto, Kelly Johnson and Yoenis Cespedes took Scherzer deep in that game. Nats' skipper Matt Williams said after the loss that it was an issue with command of the right-hander's fastball.
"I just think that fastball command is important for him," Williams told reporters.
"I haven't had a chance to look at the video yet, look at the tape of it yet, but seems as if the ball to-- the Cespedes' homer -- was a little bit up in the zone, but we'll just have to look at it, more than usual."
"I think that fastball command is important and that ball down and away to the righty, he hasn't been quite getting it there," Williams said.
In his last start before tonight's, Scherzer earned his 13th win with eight strong innings of work against the Cincinnati Reds, over which he gave up just two hits and one earned run.
Williams said Scherzer's fastball command was on in that outing.
"I think for him, the most important thing is a fastball down and away to the righty," he said.
"He had good command of that today. Which puts the slider in play. It puts the fastball in in play to the left-hander and the changeup.
"When he's got that pitch then he's really good because you have to commit as a hitter both sides of the plate. He was really special."
Scherzer's final outing of the 2015 campaign began with quick, 14-pitch, 1-2-3 first. An eight-pitch, 1-2-3 second left the right-hander at 22 total after two, and he added two Ks in a 14-pitch third that left him at 36 total after three hitless and scoreless innings.
A 10-pitch, 1-2-3 fourth left Scherzer at 46 pitches. He came out for the fifth and retired the side in order, striking out two in a nine-pitch frame, 55 total.
A throwing error by Yunel Escobar on a grounder to third gave the Mets their first baserunner of the game and blew Scherzer's bid for a perfect game, but Scherzer recovered and retired the next three batters in order to complete his sixth hitless frame with his 9th K. 13-pitch frame, 68 total.
Given a 2-0 lead to work with, Scherzer came back out for the seventh and struck out the side, collecting strikeouts 10, 11 and 12 in a 12-pitch, 1-2-3 seventh that left him at 80 pitches in seven scoreless and hitless.
Kelly Johnson K'd swinging for the first out of the eighth. K no.13. Kirk Nieuwenhuis went down swinging at a 1-2 change. No.14. Six straight Ks. Mets' catcher Kevin Plawecki went down swinging too. No.15. 13-pitch frame. 93 total.
Yoenis Cespedes came on as a pinch hitter in the top of the ninth and went down swinging! No.16 on a 96 mph 3-2 fastball. Lucas Duda K'd swinging! No.17! One. More. Out. Nine straight Ks. Curtis Granderson? Pop to third!
No-hitter for Scherzer!! No.2 of 2015!!
• Max Scherzer's Line: 9.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 17 Ks, 109 P, 80 S, 6/1 GO/FO!!!!!!!!!
4. The Dark Knight vs the Nats: Matt Harvey, while dealing with a media storm over his innings limit in his first full season back following Tommy John, has managed to avoid distractions and put together a ten-start unbeaten streak heading into tonight's game, over which he's gone (5-0) with a 2.35 ERA, seven walks and 65 Ks in 65 innings, over which he's held opposing hitters to a combined .218/.243/.313 line.
His last loss came in a July 20th start against the same Washington Nationals he was facing tonight.
Back on July 20th in the nation's capital, the 26-year-old, 2010 Mets' first round pick gave up four hits, four walks and five runs, two earned in seven innings of a 7-2 loss in Nationals Park.
Matt Williams talked before that start about what Nats' hitters could expect from the right-hander.
"He throws high fastballs," Williams said, "and we know that, so we'll try to lay off of that one, and get a good pitch to hit and whack it and go from there, give ourselves some opportunities to score some runs."
After the outing, he said that the Nationals' hitters were able to do lay off the high heaters and make good contact.
"I think we laid off the high fastball a little bit better. We understand that that's part of his repertoire, when he gets two strikes he likes to elevate that fastball."
"For the most part it's important for us to hit strikes and stay middle of the diamond, which we were able to do tonight against him."
The Nationals scored just one run on five hits when they faced Harvey in New York on July 31st, but they knocked him around a bit with eight hits and seven runs in 5 ⅓ IP when he returned to the mound in D.C. on September 8th.
That outing left Harvey (3-2) in nine career starts vs the Nationals with a 1.95 ERA and a .198/.253/.267 line against in 60 IP against the Mets' NL East rivals.
Harvey's tenth start against Washington in his career began with a quick, 16-pitch, two strikeout top of the first inning, then struck out the side in a 16-pitch, 1-2-3 second, 32 total after two scoreless.
Wilmer Difo was originally called out, but then ruled safe upon review on an infield single toward first on which he slid in headfirst into first and beat the covering pitcher.
Difo was forced out at second on a Max Scherzer grounder.
Trea Turner singled to center with two down to put two on in front of Michael Taylor, but he grounded into a force at second to end Harvey's third scoreless after nine pitches, leaving the right-hander at 41 total after three.
The Nationals went down in order again in the fourth, with Harvey adding another K in an eight-pitch frame, that left him at 7 Ks and 49 pitches.
Matt den Dekker was strikeout victim no.8 in the first at bat of the fifth. Tyler Moore went down swinging for no.9.
Dan Uggla was hit by a pitch, slowing Harvey's roll, and Max Scherzer sent Uggla around to third base with a two-out single, but both runners were stranded when Trea Turner struck out to end a 22-pitch frame with Harvey's 10th K on his 22nd pitch of the fifth and 71st pitch overall.
Michael Taylor reached on an E:5 by Kelly Johnson in the first at bat of the sixth, and took third one out later on a hit and run single to center by Clint Robinson. Wilson Ramos stepped in with a runner on third and one out and hit a sac fly to center that brought Michael Taylor in for a 1-0 lead. 20-pitch frame, 91 total.
• Matt Harvey's Line: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 11 Ks, 91 P, 61 S, 5/1 GO/FO.
3. Random Game Notes: Heading into the first game of two today, the Mets had won six straight vs the Nationals overall.
• In tonight's Mets-themed "Fun with Arbitrary End Points" segment: New York leads the NL with 101 home runs since the All-Star Break and overall this season, their 176 home runs are the third-most in the National League.
• David Wright has a .299 AVG (26 for 87) with three home runs in 22 games this month.
• In Citi Field this season, the Mets are 7-1-3 on homestands.
• In a bonus, Mets-themed, "Fun with Arbitrary End Points" segment, Matt Harvey has gone (5-0) in his last 10 starts, going back to July 25th, with a 2.35 ERA, seven walks and 65 Ks over that stretch.
• The Nationals' 46-35 record at home in D.C. was their fifth straight winning record at home.
• The Nats started today's doubleheader 6-10 against the Mets this season, with six straight losses, after winning 15 of 19 games against New York last season.
• In today's Nationals-themed "Fun with Arbitrary End Points" segment, the Nationals' MVP candidate, Bryce Harper, is finishing strong with a .337/.475/.739 line, seven doubles, 10 HRs, 26 walks and 25 runs in September.
2. Turning Point(s): Right-handed starters Matt Harvey and Max Scherzer were piling up Ks and scoreless innings at the start of their pitchers' duel in the nightcap of today's doubleheader in Citi Field, but the Mets blinked first when an error by Kelly Johnson at third put Michael Taylor on to start the sixth. Taylor took third one out later on a single by Clint Robinson and scored on a sac fly to center by Wilson Ramos that put the Nationals up, 1-0 after five and a half innings in New York.
• [ed. note - "See below for the exciting conclusion..."]
1. The Wrap-Up: Hansel Robles took over on the mound for the Mets in the seventh and gave up a one-out home run to left by Dan Uggla that put the Nats up 2-0.
Erik Goeddel retired the Nationals in order in the top of the eighth. Still 2-0 Nationals.
Max Scherzer did it again! 2-0 Nationals final.
Nationals now 83-78