5. Scherzer takes San Diego: Max Scherzer had a 4-0 lead to work with before he took the mound last Monday night in Phoenix, Arizona's Chase Field, and a 10-0 lead when he came out for the second. After the 30-year-old right-hander's seven-inning, 94-pitch outing against the Diamondbacks, in which he gave up just five hits and one earned run, both Washington Nationals' skipper Matt Williams and D-Backs' manager Chip Hale talked about how impressed they were with Scherzer's ability to remain focused in spite of the lopsided score.
"It's easy to let your guard down," Williams said. "We're all human. He doesn't do that though. He competes every time he goes out there for an inning, regardless of score, situation, whatever it is. He just competes."
"He looked like he was pitching in a tie game or a one-run game," Hale said. "That looked like his mindset out there. He was going after our guys. He was using his breaking ball well and obviously he's got a knockout changeup."
Scherzer said he has to approach things that way, regardless of the score.
"That's the trick in these situations, once you get a 10-run lead like that," he explained.
"You can't pitch to the scoreboard. You've got to treat it like it's a 0-0 game.
"The old tale is, 'Ahh, just give them fastballs,' you're just trying to get through the lineup. It's actually, no, you've got to still pitch. You still have to throw all your offspeed. You've got to pitch backwards. You've got to do everything that you planned on doing before the game and still continue to do that."
Scherzer's outing, and his win, left him (3-3) on the year after seven starts, with a 1.99 ERA, a 2.20 FIP, six walks (1.09 BB/9) and 55 Ks (9.97 K/9) in 49 ⅔ IP, over which he's held opposing hitters to a .213/.245/.303 line.
Tonight, in Petco Park, Scherzer was facing the Padres for the sixth time in his eight-year career, having gone (1-2) with a 3.41 ERA, 14 walks (4.34 BB/9) and 41 Ks (12.72 K/9) in 29 IP in the previous five outings, in which San Diego's hitters put up a combined .206/.303/.336 line.
Scherzer took the mound for his eighth start of the 2015 campaign, and the Nationals' third game of four with the Padres with a 3-0 lead and retired the side in order in a quick, 18-pitch frame. Scherzer struck out two in a 1-2-3 second that left him at 31 pitches total after two.
An 11-pitch, 1-2-3 third gave Scherzer nine straight outs to start the game. 42 pitches total after three.
Will Venable was the first Padre to reach base when he took a one-out walk in the bottom of the fourth, and Matt Kemp connected for the first hit in the next at bat, lining a 1-2 slider to left-center to send Venable around to third.
Justin Upton fell behind 0-2 to Scherzer and K'd swinging through a 96 mph 1-2 heater, but Yangervis Solarte's two-out walk loaded the bases for Will Middlebrooks. One pitch later, however, Max Scherzer was through four scoreless after a pop to second ended the threat. 23-pitch frame. 65 total after four.
Scherzer set the Padres down in order in a quick, seven-pitch, 1-2-3 fifth that left him at 72 pitches.
Cory Spangenberg K'd looking for the first out of the Padres' sixth and Scherzer's 9th K, but Will Venable lined a 94 mph 1-1 fastball to left-center for the first extra base hit of the game off the Nats' starter. Denard Span was all over Matt Kemp's fly to center in the next at bat though. A wild pitch to Justin Upton moved Venable to third, but Justin Upton's fly to foul territory in right ended a 12-pitch frame. 84 total for Scherzer in six scoreless.
Yangervis Solarte doubled off the base of the center field wall in the first at bat of the Padres' seventh, and took third one out later on a single through short by Alexi Amarista. Derek Norris came up for a pinch hit appearance with runners on the corners and one down and went down swinging at a 96 mph 0-2 heater for Scherzer's 10th K. Pinch hitter Abraham Almonte came up with two out and K'd swinging at a 96 mph 2-2 fastball. 11 Ks. 20 pitch frame.
• Max Scherzer's Line: 7.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 11 Ks, 104 P, 73 S, 4/5 GO/FO.
4. Cashner's record: Andrew Casher, 28, entered tonight's game against the Washington Nationals with a four-start losing streak and a (1-6) record on the year, but a 3.07 ERA, a 4.36 FIP and a .251/.303/.433 line against in 44 IP, over which he'd walked 11 (2.25 BB/9) and struck out 45 (9.20 K/9).
Over the course of his losing streak, the right-hander received just three runs of support from the Padres, who were shut out in two of the outings.
While he received no support, Cashner held opposing hitters to a .232/.274/.434 line over that stretch, with a 3.33 ERA, five walks (1.67 BB/9) and 25 Ks (8.33 K/9) in 27 IP.
As the Padres mentioned in their pregame notes, Cashner was in elite hard-luck loser territory through seven starts, as one of, "seven Major League pitchers to have six or more losses with an ERA of 3.10 or better through the first seven starts of a season," and he is, "... the first since Hall-of-Fame right-hander Juan Marichal started the season 1-6 with a 2.98 ERA for the [San Francisco] Giants in 1972."
His defense wasn't helping either, as he entered the game with no errors of his own, but a Major League-leading 10 unearned runs allowed so far this season.
Cashner started tonight's game with a streak of 21 consecutive starts in Petco Park, dating back to June 11, 2013, in which he allowed 2 ER or less.
On the year, the right-hander had a 1.80 ERA, a 2.55 FIP, three walks (1.35 BB/9) and 25 Ks (11.25 K/9) in 20 IP at home in San Diego, limiting visiting hitters to a combined .244/.280/.390 line.
In his fourth start of the year in the Padres' home, Cashner was down early after Ian Desmond doubled and scored on an RBI single to right by Yunel Escobar. 1-0. Escobar scored from third base on a chopper over the mound off Ryan Zimmerman's bat after Bryce Harper singled to send Escobar from second to third, 2-0, and Wilson Ramos singled to center to bring Harper in and make it 3-0 at the end of a 29-pitch frame by the Padres' starter.
Michael Taylor and Denard Span connected for leadoff and one-out singles, respectively, off Cashner in the top of the second, but Taylor was thrown out at third on an attempted double steal, and Ian Desmond grounded out to strand Span at the end of a 17-pitch second by Cashner, who was up to 46 pitches after two.
Yunel Escobar lined a double to right-center on the first pitch of the third and Bryce Harper walked to put two on in front of Ryan Zimmerman in the Nats' third, but Zimmerman grounded into a double play for the first two outs of the frame and Wilson Ramos' groundout to second ended an 11-pitch frame that left Cashner at 57 pitches.
Danny Espinosa walked to start the fourth and took third one out later when Andrew Cashner tried to go aggressive and throw to second on a bunt by Max Scherzer and threw well wide of the bag an into center. A sac fly to left field by Denard Span scored Espinosa to make it 4-0 Nationals after three and a half. 25-pitch frame. 82 total for Cashner after four.
The Padres were in a shift with Bryce Harper up with one down in the top of the fifth, so the 22-year-old Nationals' slugger dropped a bunt down the third base line for a single. Ryan Zimmerman grounded into a 5-4-3 in the next at bat, however, ending a nine-pitch frame. 91 total for Cashner after five.
Danny Espinosa doubled with one down in the top of the sixth, and took third on a groundout by Michael Taylor, but he was stranded there when Max Scherzer K'd looking to end the frame. 17-pitch inning, 108 total for Cashner.
• Andrew Cashner's Line: 6.0 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 6 Ks, 108 P, 73 S, 7/1 GO/FO.
3. Consistent Production: After last night's 10-0 win in Petco Park, the Washington Nationals found themselves second in the NL in runs scored, with 180 in 37 games, behind only the Los Angeles Dodgers, with 184, and they were in a three-team tie for second in wRC+ in the National League at 100 wRC+, behind only the Dodgers again, with 131 wRC+.
The Nats' .261/.327/.413 line as a team had them ranked 7th in the NL in AVG, 5th in OBP and 3rd in SLG.
Matt Williams was asked after the big win over San Diego about the suddenly consistent output from his offense, which struggled to score runs early this season.
"It's just we give ourselves opportunities, which is important for us. So I mean the first inning is indicative of our club," Williams said of the four-run frame which started last night's game.
"Denard [Span] got a base hit. Yunel [Escobar] had a great at bat, long at bat, worked a base hit. Then you've got to be careful with the middle guys in the lineup, especially -- everybody is being careful with [Bryce Harper].
"So it provides us a bigger inning and that's what we want, it puts pressure on the opposing team.
"We've got guys all over the basepaths, so it worked good for us tonight."
Harper went 3 for 4 with two runs scored in the win, and launched his 13th home run of the season in 161 plate appearances after he hit 13 total in 395 PAs last season.
Williams said that he was just as impressed with Harper's eighth inning single as he was with the home run, though Harper got all of the homer.
"Just looked like he was out in front a little bit," the second-year skipper said.
"But he kept his hands through the baseball. That's what he's been doing. For me, the homer is great, but the more impressive one is the base hit the last time up.
"It's easy as a player to say, well, the game is out of hand, I'm going to try to hit another one and you end up getting out of yourself.
"He settled in with two strikes and just got a single. And that's going to be the measure of his success moving forward."
Harper battled for ten pitches before singling to right in his first at bat tonight, connecting for one of the Nationals' four hits in a three-run top of the first, and walked the second time up, taking his MLB-leading 35th free pass.
The Nationals connected for 10 hits and four runs, three earned on Andrew Cashner and took the second straight from the Padres to improve to 8-3 in their last 11 games.
2. Turning Point(s): The Nationals jumped out to another early lead tonight in Petco Park, scoring three runs off Padres' starter Andrew Cashner in the top of the first with Yunel Escobar singling to drive in a run and scoring on an RBI groundout by Ryan Zimmerman. Wilson Ramos extended his MLB-best hit streak to 18-straight games with an RBI single of his own and the Nats led 3-0 after a half-inning in San Diego.
Max Scherzer retired the first ten batters he faced before issuing a one-out walk to Will Venable in the Padres' fourth. Matt Kemp connected for the first hit off Scherzer in the next at bat, and the second walk of the inning loaded the bases with two down, but Will Middlebrooks popped out to second to end the fourth scoreless frame for the Nationals' starter, who went on to throw seven scoreless total, striking out 11.
1. The Wrap-Up: Kevin Quackenbush took over on the mound for the Padres in the seventh. Ian Desmond singled to center with one down, but was caught trying to steal second for the second out of a scoreless frame by the Padres' right-hander. Still 4-0 Nationals.
Brandon Maurer gave up a walk but nothing else in a scoreless top of the eighth inning.
Nationals' left-hander Matt Thornton took over for the Nationals in the bottom of the inning and gave up a leadoff walk to Cory Spangenberg, but Will Venable grounded into a 5-4-3 in the next at bat and Thornton got a fly to right from Matt Kemp to end a 16-pitch eighth.
Craig Kimbrel gave up a two-out double by Denard Span, but completed a scoreless ninth.
Aaron Barrett came out for the bottom of the ninth inning and issued a leadoff walk to Justin Upton, who scored two outs later on an RBI single by Alexi Amarista. 4-1 Nationals. Drew Storen came on to face Derek Norris with one out and a runner on and struck him out to end the game.
Nationals now 21-17