5. Scherzer vs the Orioles: Nationals' starter Max Scherzer's last outing was his shortest of the 2015 campaign so far, but coming after the dominant stretch of starts he put together in recent weeks, it was easy to write it off as an anomaly.
In 4 ⅔ innings pitched at home against the Cincinnati Reds, Scherzer gave up seven hits and five earned runs in what ended up a 5-0 loss.
"Just missed with location on a few pitches and to the wrong hitters and they made me pay for it," Scherzer said.
"They're a great team and they've got great hitters and when you have a game like today, they make you pay for it. But at the end of the day, this is not one of those games where you beat yourself up. You just don't have it.
"When you think you have it and you don't make pitches that's when you start throwing chairs, this is not one of them."
"I can't put a finger on it," Scherzer explained when asked what was off. "I just think it's one of those things. It just happens. When it happens you just move on. If it happens again next start where I don't feel like I have location where I can execute pitches then I'll start critiquing it and figure out why."
"I don't think we read too much into that," Matt Williams said after the Nationals' loss. "I just think he was not throwing it exactly where he wanted to tonight."
The loss was Scherzer's second straight, leaving him (9-7) on the year with a 2.12 ERA, 2.03 FIP, 14 walks (1.02 BB/9), 143 Ks (10.44 K/9) and a .188/.219/.296 line against in 123 ⅓ innings pitched in the first year of his 7-year/$210M contract with the Nats.
This afternoon, he was facing the Baltimore Orioles for the seventh time in the regular season his eight-year career after he went (3-1) in the previous six outings, with a 3.92 ERA and a .280/.315/.439 line over 39 IP.
Scherzer struck the first two batters he faced today out, but Adam Jones yanked a 1-2 curve out to left for a solo HR that made it 1-0 Orioles after an 18-pitch first.
Scherzer retired the side on seven-pitches in a 1-2-3 second that left him at 25 pitches overall.
The Orioles went down in order in the third as well, in a 13-pitch frame that ended with a sliding catch by Bryce Harper in right that robbed Manny Machado of a two-out single. 38 total after three.
Given a 3-1 lead to work with, and with some help from a diving Tyler Moore at first, Scherzer set the eighth, ninth and tenth straight Orioles down in an 11-pitch, 1-2-3 fourth that left him at 49 pitches.
Scherzer added two Ks in a 19-pitch, 1-2-3 fifth that gave him 13-straight outs. 68 pitches overall.
Jonathan Schoop's one-out single in the sixth ended Scherzer's retired batter streak at 14-straight. Jimmy Paredes singled to right with two down, but both runners were stranded when Adam Jones popped out to second to end an eight-pitch sixth that left Scherzer at 76 pitches.
An 11-pitch, 1-2-3 seventh left Scherzer at 87 pitches overall.
J.J. Hardy lined out to short to start the O's eighth. David Lough sent a flyout to left. Jonathan Schoop went down swinging. 1-2-and-3. 13-pitch frame, 100 pitches total.
Scherzer came back out for the ninth and retired the first two batters he faced before Adam Jones did it again, hitting a second home run to left. 3-2 Nationals. That was it for Scherzer...
• Max Scherzer's Line: 8.2 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 7 Ks, 2 HRs, 115 P, 80 S, 6/7 GO/FO.
4. Chen vs Washington: Wei-Yin Chen, 29, took the mound this afternoon in Oriole Park at Camden Yards with a six-start unbeaten streak going, over which the left-hander had a 2.23 ERA, 10 walks (2.23 BB/9), 35 Ks (7.81 K/9) and a .215/.265/.395 line against in 40 ⅓ innings pitched.
Chen's last loss came back on May 30th, in a seven inning outing against the Tampa Bay Rays in which he gave up five hits and three earned runs. It was the last time he's given up more than two runs in a start.
On the year, before today, the veteran of four MLB seasons, who signed as a free agent in 2012, after four seasons with the Chunichi Dragons in Nippon Professional Baseball, was (4-4) in 16 starts with a 2.82 ERA, a 4.43 FIP, 25 walks (2.21 BB/9), 83 Ks (7.32 K/9) and a .233/.283/.425 line against in 102 IP.
Chen was facing the Nationals for the fourth time in his career after going (1-2) with a 6.60 ERA in 15 IP in the previous three outings, over which Washington's hitter put up a combined .338/.394/.600 line against him.
Yunel Escobar reached on an infield single to the left side with two down in the top of the first and took third base on a double to right by Bryce Harper (no.21), but Chris Davis tracked down a fly to the right field gap by Wilson Ramos for out no.3 of an 18-pitch frame by Chen.
Given a 1-0 lead to work with, Chen retired the Nationals in order in a quick, 11-pitch, 1-2-3 frame that left him at 29 total after two. An eight-pitch, 1-2-3 third pushed Chen up to 37 total.
Yunel Escobar was 2 for 2 today after a leadoff single to center started the fourth. Bryce Harper worked the count full in the next at bat, but sent a fly to center for the first out of the frame. Wilson Ramos K'd swinging through a high heater for out no.2, but Clint Robinson kept the inning a live with a two-out single to left-center and Dan Uggla tied it up with a single to straight center that brought Escobar in. 1-1. Tyler Moore stepped in next and doubled to right-center to drive in two and make it 3-1. 18-pitch frame for Chen, 55 total.
Escobar was 3 for 3 after a two-out single in the Nats' fifth, but he was stranded when Bryce Harper lined out to center to end a 10-pitch inning that left Chen at 65 pitches.
Clint Robinson singled with one down in the sixth, but Dan Uggla grounded in an inning-ending 6-4-3. 13-pitch frame for Chen, 78 total.
A 10-pitch, 1-2-3 seventh left Chen at 88 pitches. The O's lefty retired the Nationals in order in the eighth as well in a 14-pitch frame that left him at 102 pitches.
• Wei-Yin Chen's Line: 8.0 IP, 3 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 7 Ks, 0 HR, 102 P, 78 S, 8/1 GO/FO.
3. Random Game Notes: With a win this afternoon, the Nationals would finish the so-called "first half" of the 2015 campaign with a .500 record on the road.
• The Nats were 22-23 away from the nation's capital heading into the finale with the Orioles, and 25-16 at home in D.C.
• The Orioles entered the third game of six between themselves and the Nationals this season with a 36-31 edge in the head-to-head rivalry since 2005.
• Danny Espinosa's three-run home run last night was his 10th this season, the most among NL second basemen this season and one shy of his total for the entire 2013-14 campaigns combined.
• One big factor in his resurgence, as the Nationals mention in their pregame notes, has been Espinosa's ability to cut down on the Ks and make contact. His swing-and-miss percentage is down from 35.3% last season and a career 30.5% to 24.9% so far in 2015.
• Bryce Harper, who hit his 26th HR of the season last night, is currently tied for second in the majors in HRs, is third in walks, with 63 and fifth in the majors in RBIs, with 61, all career highs...
• Before taking the mound today, Bryce Harper led the majors in opponent's on-base percentage, .219, WHIP, 0.80 and batting average against, .188 BAA.
• The Orioles started play today fifth in the majors and fourth in the AL with 108 home runs as a team, the Nationals rank 12th with 86 so far this season... as noted above 26 of those are Harper's.
• After going 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position in the series opener and 0 for 8 w/ RISP last night, the Orioles' average with runners in scoring position as a team is down to .290, third in the majors behind the Colorado Rockies (.292) and Toronto Blue Jays (.296).
• The Nationals entered play today, against Wei-Yin Chen, with a .253/.323/.390 line vs left-handers this season, good for 10th/8th/13th in the majors.
2. Turning Point(s): Max Scherzer looked sharp early, striking out the first two batters he faced, and he got ahead 1-2 on Adam Jones in the third at bat of the Orioles' first inning, before Jones got hold of a curve inside and sent it out to left field for a solo blast that made it 1-0 O's early in the series finale. Jones also tied Frank Robinson on the Orioles' all-time home run list with the blast, which was his 13th of the season and his 179th as an Oriole.
• Yunel Escobar was 2 for 2 today after a leadoff single in the Nats' half of the fourth, and he scored two outs later on the second of two, two-out singles when Dan Uggla lined an RBI hit back up the middle to tie it up at 1-1. Uggla and Clint Robinson, who hit the first of the two two-out singles, scored when Tyler Moore doubled in the next at bat for the third straight hit off Orioles' starter Wei-Yin Chen. 3-1 Nationals in the fourth.
1. The Wrap-Up: Bud Norris threw a scoreless ninth for the Orioles, walking Dan Uggla with two down before completing the inning.
Max Scherzer came back out for the ninth and gave up the second home run of the game by Adam Jones with two down. Drew Storen came on to record the last out and got it. Save no.27. Ballgame. 3-2 final.
Nationals now 48-39