5. Scherzer returns to Chase Field: Three of the five runs Max Scherzer allowed last time out on the mound, came on a three-run home run by Miami Marlins' slugger Giancarlo Stanton in the eighth inning of the series finale of last week's three-game set in Nationals Park.
Washington was up 7-2 before the blast, so Nats' skipper Matt Williams was giving his 30-year-old right-hander a little bit of a longer leash.
Scherzer's ERA jumped from 1.26 to 2.11 after he gave up 10 hits and five runs against the Fish, but Williams told reporters after the win, that he was happy with the outing.
"Thought fastball was good, 96 [mph] when he needed it," Williams said.
"In the last inning he hung a slider to Giancarlo, but he pitched well and we were able to give him some support today too, which was good."
Scherzer said he really felt good on the mound vs Miami, telling Washington Post writer Chelsea Janes he thought that all his pitchers were working for him.
"'I really thought everything was on today,'" he explained. "'Really felt I had command of all the pitches and was really attacking the zone and was able to locate the fastball to both sides.'"
Williams talked before the start about Scherzer, who struck out 10 in each of his last two outings, being willing to pound the zone and challenge hitters.
"He wants them to make early contact, because he wants to go deep in a game," the second-year skipper said. "So it depends on what the game gives him and what the situation is, but he's got four pitches to do it with. At any point he can throw any of his pitches to punch a guy out if he needs it."
Scherzer took the mound in Phoenix, Arizona's Chase Field tonight in the first game of a three-game set with the Diamondbacks, facing the franchise that drafted him in the 1st Round of the '06 Draft (11th overall) for just the second time in his career and the first time since 2010 when he held the D-Backs to one run on four hits in seven innings while he was with the Detroit Tigers.
Scherzer started the game with a 2.11 ERA, as mentioned, a 1.96 FIP, five walks (1.05 BB/9) and 49 Ks (10.34 K/9) in six starts and 42 ⅔ IP over which he's held opposing hitters to a combined .241/.303/.388 line.
Given a 4-0 lead to work with before he even took the mound, Scherzer's seventh start for the Nationals began with a seven-pitch, seven-strike, 1-2-3 frame. Scherzer took the mound in the second with a 10-0 lead and retired the side in order, striking out two in a 14-pitch frame that left him at 21 total after two.
D-Backs' shortstop Chris Owings beat out a grounder to short for a leadoff single in the Arizona third and the first hit off of Scherzer tonight, but the next two batters popped out in foul territory before Ender Inciarte came up and lined a two-out double to right-center to send Owings around to third. Scherzer went right after A.J. Pollock, however, and struck him out with three straight sliders to end a 14-pitch inning at 35 overall.
Jordan Pacheco, David Peralta and Yasmany Tomas went down in order in a five-pitch, 1-2-3 fourth by Scherzer, who was up to 40 pitches.
Chris Owings lined a one-out single to right in the home-half of the fifth and D-Backs' catcher Tuffy Gosewisch lined a single to center. Vidal Nuno was swinging away with the score 11-0, but sent a fly to Jayson Werth in left for out no.2, and Ender Inciarte lined out to right to end an 18-pitch inning that left Scherzer at 58 pitches.
A.J. Pollock took a 95 mph 1-2 fastball for a called strike three and Scherzer's fourth K. Jordan Pacheco worked the count full in the next at bat and unloaded on a slider up in the zone, sending a solo blast out to left and into the D-Backs' bullpen to make it 11-1 Nats.
Two quick outs followed and Scherzer was up to 73 pitches after a 15-pitch frame.
Tuffy Gosewisch took a two-out walk from Scherzer in the D-Backs' seventh, but Vidal Nuno grounded out to second to end a 21-pitch frame. 94 pitches.
• Max Scherzer's Line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 Ks, 1 HR, 94 P, 68 S, 7/2 GO/FO.
4. Collementer vs Nats: D-Backs' right-hander Josh Collmenter dropped each of his first two starts this season, but was (3-1) in his last four outings before taking the mound against the Nationals tonight, with a 2.40 ERA, one walk and 16 Ks in his last 30 IP, over which he held opposing hitters to a .227/.232/.382 line.
Josh Collmenter has a 2.40 ERA over his last 4 starts & hasn't issued a walk to his last 98 batters faced. pic.twitter.com/ne9CJcHvcc— #VoteDbacks (@Dbacks) May 12, 2015
On the year, Collmenter started the night with a 3.40 ERA, a 3.63 FIP, three walks (0.68 BB/9) and 21 Ks (4.76 K/9) in 39 ⅔ IP, and a streak of three straight starts and 26 IP overall in which he managed to avoid issuing any walks (98 batters faced).
The D-Backs' righty was one of just four pitchers in the majors with 20+ innings on the mound and three walks or less so far in 2015, and his 0.68 BB/9 was the third-lowest walks-per-nine-innings in the majors behind only the New York Mets' Bartolo Colon (0.19 BB/9) and the NY Yankees' Michael Pineda (0.58 BB/9)
Collementer, armed with an extreme over-the-top delivery, mid-80s "fastballs", a changeup and curve, was making his third start (and fifth appearance) vs the Nationals after going (2-0) with a 2.57 ERA and .180/.222/.380 line against in 14 IP before tonight.
The Nats got out to a real early lead on the D-Backs' right-hander when Denard Span took an 0-1 cutter to right for a solo home run in the first at bat. Yunel Escobar singled to center and Jayson Werth walked in the next two ABs to put two runners on for Bryce Harper, who just missed a three-run home run, flying out to the right field corner.
Ryan Zimmerman stepped in next with runners on the corners... and didn't miss, hitting an 84 mph 2-1 fastball out to left-center to put the Nats up 4-0 early in Arizona.
Danny Espinosa, Max Scherzer and Denard Span hit back-to-back-to-back singles in the first three at bats of the Nats' second, with Espinosa scoring on Span's grounder to center, 5-0. Yunel Escobar connected for the fourth straight single, loading them up for Jayson Werth, whose sac fly to center brought Scherzer in, 6-0. Bryce Harper's RBI single to right field drove Span in and ended Collmenter's night... 7-0. Two of the runners he left on ended up scoring as well...
• Josh Collmenter's Line: 1.1 IP, 8 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 1 BB, 0 Ks, 2 HRs, 47 P, 28 S, 1/2 GO/FO.
3. #HORNSUP: While Bryce Harper's name has been in the headlines over the last week-plus as he's hit home runs out left and right (but mostly to right), Nationals' catcher Wilson Ramos has quietly been on quite an impressive run at the plate, which included the game-winning hit in the series finale against the Atlanta Braves on Sunday.
Ramos had hits in 13-straight games after going 2 for 4 in the third game of three with Atlanta in D.C., for a ridiculous .420/.453/.480 line, three doubles, three walks and seven Ks in 53 plate appearances over that stretch which has lifted him from a .229/.240/.333 line on the year to .327/.350/.408 overall after the Nats' homestand.
"He's got a knack for driving runs in because he stays in the middle of the diamond and the other way so well," Nats' skipper Matt Williams said Sunday.
"He just stays on the ball so good. He's been swinging good. He's swinging at strikes. He's getting good pitches to hit, being patient enough to get those pitches and delivering for us. So, he's playing well."
Ryan Zimmerman, who scored the winning run on Ramos' game-winning double to right on Sunday afternoon, said what anyone who's been watching the catcher's career has been saying for several seasons as he's battled through one injury after another and struggled to stay on the field.
"I've always said, I want to see what [Ramos] can do with 120-130 games, because he's obviously a great catcher, but offensively he's very talented and if he can stay healthy and play all year he's another guy that can put up 20 home runs and it's hard to find a catcher who can do that."
Zimmerman walked to load the bases in front of Ramos in the top of the second and Ramos cleared them with a line drive double to left that extended his hit streak to 14 games and made it 10-0 over the D-Backs early.
2. Turning Point(s): Can the second pitch of the game be a turning point? It can when Denard Span hits it out of the park for a solo home run and a 1-0 lead early in the series-opener in Arizona.
Ryan Zimmerman hit Josh Collmenter's 17th pitch of the game out to left field and off the signage in back of the seats for a three-run blast that made it 4-0 after a half-inning in Chase Field.
Four straight singles, a bases-loaded sac fly by Jayson Werth and an RBI single to right by Bryce Harper in the top of the second put the Nationals up 7-0 and knocked Collmenter out, and Wilson Ramos hit a base-clearing double by third base to make it 10-0 after just an inning and a half.
1. The Wrap-Up: Vidal Nuno took over on the mound for Josh Collmenter in the top of the second with the D-Backs down 7-0. Ryan Zimmerman walked to load the bases in the first at bat vs Nuno and Wilson Ramos cleared them with a double to left that made it 10-0 Nationals.
Nuno worked around a two-out single by Yunel Escobar for a scoreless 16-pitch third. Nuno needed just four pitches to get three outs in the top of the fourth.
Danny Espinosa singled through the left side with one out in the top of the fifth, and Max Scherzer followed with a line drive to left. Yunel Escobar was 4 for 4 on the night after he got a grounder by a diving Chris Owings at short for an RBI single that scored Espinosa to make it 11-0 Nats after four and a half.
Bryce Harper walked to start the sixth and took second on a two-out single to left by Ian Desmond which left Jayson Werth as the only member of the starting lineup without a hit. Danny Espinosa K'd swinging to end the top of the inning... Still 11-0 Nats.
Yunel Escobar was 5 for 5 on the night after a two-out single to center in the Nats' seventh, but he was stranded at first when Clint Robinson K'd looking to end the top of the inning.
Nuno continued the yeoman's work with a scoreless, 1-2-3 eighth that left him at 105 pitches.
Blake Treinen took over for Max Scherzer in the bottom of the eighth and threw a scoreless 10-pitch frame.
Enrique Burgos threw a quick, scoreless top of the ninth.
Treinen issued a leadoff walk to David Peralta in the bottom of the ninth, but stranded the runner at the end of his second scoreless inning of work. 11-1 final.
Nationals now 18-15