Giancarlo Stanton popped up on a 92 mph 1-0 fastball the first time up. Miami's hard-hitting outfielder K'd swinging at an 0-2 slider outside in his second at bat against Max Scherzer, then popped up on a 2-0 slider that brought him to his knees the third time he came up in Washington, D.C.'s Nationals Park. 0 for 3 for the Marlins' $325M slugger vs the Nats' $210M starter.
Stanton got one more shot at Scherzer, however, with two on and no one out in the eighth inning of what was then a 7-2 game in the Nationals' favor.
Dee Gordon singled to start the frame. Martin Prado lined a single to right in the next at bat...
Stanton vs Scherzer at bat no.4:
- 95 mph fastball outside for a swinging strike.
- Slider outside, 88 mph, Stanton chases, 0-2.
- Fastball up high outside, misses, 1-2.
- Back to the slider? In the dirt, Stanton spits on it, 2-2.
- Front door slider... called a ball inside, 3-2.
- Slider up high, 88 mph, fouled, still 3-2.
- Foul, fastball at 96. Foul again. 112 pitches.
- Foul again, 96 mph again.
- Slider... gone. 3-run HR to left.
"'I really thought I made two mistakes,'" Scherzer told reporters, including MLB.com's Bill Ladson after the game.
"'One to Ichiro in the second inning, when he was able to get a single. Obviously, the last one to Stanton -- [the count] was 3-2. I was trying to break that slider into the zone. Before I started, I just needed to finish it. I didn't finish it, and it hung right there, so he could hit it a country mile.'"
"'Early in the at-bat, when I was trying to get in the zone with it, I was bouncing it,'" Scherzer told the Washington Post's Chelsea Janes:
"'I tried to make the adjustment within the at-bat to bring that pitch back into the zone and not walk him and throwing that slider completely out of the zone," Scherzer explained.
"And so by moving my sights a little bit up, also allowed me to hang it at the same time because I didn’t finish it. It’s just one of those things you learn from. He’s a great hitter. You [throw] a back-up slider to him, he’s going to hit it as far as anybody can hit it."
Stanton's three-run blast got the Marlins within two, at 7-5, and ended Scherzer's outing.
"I really thought everything was on today," Scherzer told the WaPost's Ms. Janes. "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. I can really mix and match. That’s when I have success."
Tanner Roark got the Nats through the eighth and Drew Storen finished Miami off in the ninth with a scoreless frame in which he worked around a leadoff single by Gordon, striking out Stanton and Marcell Ozuna to earn the save.
"Thought fastball was good," Nats' skipper Matt Williams said after the seven-plus-inning outing by Scherzer in which the 30-year-old right-hander gave up ten hits, five runs, all earned, walked no one and struck out ten.
"96 [mph] when he needed it. 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."
Bryce Harper provided the bulk of that support with three home runs and five RBIs in the game.
"I'm happy we got that 'W' today," Harper told reporters. "Especially with Maxy out there, trying to get some runs on the board for him, of course, and try to get him win no.2. He should have six [wins] right now."
Stanton's eighth inning home run made it a little bit less comfortable though. Williams was asked afterwards about his thought process in sending Scherzer back out for the eighth at 101 pitches?
"There's a lot," the second-year skipper explained. "I know that he was good to 115 [pitches] and we've got some heavy arms down there [in the bullpen]. So, with that kind of lead we let him go until the homer. But he threw the ball good."
"As long as you're out of slam-reach, for me anyway, then you go with your guy," Williams continued. "Depending on where he's at, and we know that Max is good to 115. After he came off in the seventh, we had the conversation about how he was feeling. He said, 'I'm good to go.' And then they got a couple of quick hits and Stanton took a good swing at that one. That's the way the game goes. But as long as we're out of slam-reach there, then we're comfortable with not matching up in that regard."
"There's no perfect way," Williams said. "I would say this, that I have ultimate confidence in Max Scherzer regardless who is standing at the plate and regardless of the situation. So, I'll leave it at that."
• We talked about the decision to leave Scherzer in for the eighth, Bryce Harper's three-HR game and more on Nats Nightly after yesterday's game: