5. Scherzer vs the Dodgers: Max Scherzer came one out short of a complete game last time out in what ended up a 3-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles. Scherzer allowed two runs on four hits in Oriole Park at Camden Yards, with both runs coming on home runs by Adam Jones, who took the Washington Nationals' 30-year-old All-Star deep in the first and the ninth innings of Scherzer's 115-pitch start.
Scherzer improved to (10-7) with the win, lowering his ERA to 2.11 to go along with a 2.19 FIP, 14 walks (0.95 BB/9) and 150 Ks (10.23 K/9) in 132 first-half innings pitched, over which he held hitters to a combined .185/.214/.299 line. Scherzer finished the first half with a stretch of 39 ⅔ innings in which he didn't allow a walk.
"It's just command of his pitches," Nats' skipper Matt Williams said when asked about Scherzer limiting the free passes after the start against the Orioles.
"All of them when he needs to, any time he needs to. He threw some curveballs today, changeups when he had to, used his fastball effectively. That just tells us that he's in command of all of them. He can get ahead in the count and then if he gets behind or he gets to a full [count] then he can make a pitch."
"I was executing pitches," Scherzer told reporters. "Again, a start with no walks allows you to pitch efficiently and pitch deep into games and that can always help the ballclub. I'm proud of that."
This afternoon he was facing Los Angeles for the tenth time in his career, making his eighth start against the Dodgers after going (2-3) in the previous nine outings, over which he put up a 3.51 ERA with 10 walks (1.85 BB/9) and 41 Ks (7.58 K/9) in 48 ⅔ IP over which he held LA's hitters to a combined .243/.284/.411 line.
Scherzer's first start of the second-half began with a long-ish first in which both Howie Kendrick and Adrian Gonzalez singled to right and Yasmani Grandal walked (ending Scherzer's streak) to load the bases with two out before Yasiel Puig stepped in and went down swinging at a 95 mph 1-2 fastball to end a 23-pitch opening frame.
A ten-pitch, 1-2-3 second left Scherzer at 33 total after two. Scherzer struck Joc Pederson out swinging and got Adrian Gonzalez looking for the first and third outs of an 18-pitch, 1-2-3 third that pushed him up to 51 pitches.
Andre Ethier doubled to left on an 0-2 change in the first at bat of the fourth, and took third on a sac bunt by catcher Yasmani Grandal, but Yasiel Puig K'd swinging through a 97 mph 2-2 heater for out no.2 before a wild pitch inside to Alberto Callaspo allowed Ethier to score. 1-0 LA. 17-pitch fourth, 68 total.
Howie Kendrick lined to right with two down in the Dodgers' fifth, but Michael Taylor got it in quickly to hold him to a single and Scherzer popped Adrian Gonzalez up to end the frame. 13-pitch fifth, 81 total.
Andre Ethier was 2 for 3 today after he lined a leadoff single to right-center to start the sixth and Yasmani Grandal singled to right for the second straight hit, but both runners were stranded three outs later. Scherzer completed a scoreless 17-pitch sixth at 98 pitches overall.
Wilmer Difo hit for Scherzer in the sixth...
• Scherzer's Line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 Ks, 98 P, 70 S, 4/1 GO/FO.
4. Greinke vs the Nationals: Dodgers' righty Zack Greinke ended the first half of his 2015 campaign on a streak of 35 ⅔ scoreless innings, going back five starts to a June 18th outing against the Texas Rangers.
Over that stretch, L.A.'s 31-year-old, 12-year veteran was (3-0) with three walks (0.76 BB/9), 31 Ks (7.82 K/9) and a .132/.160/.157 line against.
On the year, Greinke was (8-2) in 18 first-half starts, with a 1.39 ERA, a 2.64 FIP, 20 walks (1.46 BB/9) and 106 Ks (7.74 K/9) in 123 ⅓ innings pitched, over which he held opposing hitters to a .190/.231/.276 line.
Scherzer's last start before today was an eight-inning outing against the Phillies back on July 9th, which saw the right-hander hold the Phillies to one hit in a 6-0 win in which he struck out eight and threw 94 pitches.
"He seemed like he was kind of on the attack, pitch count down," Los Angeles' manager Don Mattingly said. "Pitch count down, ahead and basically just kind of did his thing tonight."
"He's been impressive all year long," Mattingly added. "We've talked about it a couple times. Zack just came out of the gate throwing the ball well from the very beginning. The first couple years it felt like it took him a while to get into his groove and then he got going and he really became like this. This year it's just been really, really good out of the gate."
Greinke took the mound this afternoon in the series finale in D.C. looking to help the Dodgers earn the series win on the road. He retired the side in order in the first, catching Bryce Harper looking with a 94 mph 1-2 fastball for out no.3 of a 12-pitch inning.
A 15-pitch, 1-2-3 second left Greinke at 27 pitches overall with 37 ⅔-straight scoreless and six straight batters set down to start the game, four of them via strikeout.
Michael Taylor singled to left with one down in the third, connecting for the Nationals' first hit of the game, but Max Scherzer K'd trying to bunt with two strikes and Taylor got picked off first for out no.3 of a nine-pitch frame that left Greinke at 36 pitches overall after three.
Bryce Harper walked with two out in the bottom of the fourth, but a groundout to second base by Clint Robinson gave Greinke four scoreless today and 39 ⅔ scoreless overall in his last six starts. 17-pitch frame, 53 total.
An 11-pitch, 1-2-3 fifth left Greinke at 64 pitches, with 40 ⅔ scoreless innings overall.
Yunel Escobar lined a single to center with two out in the sixth, but Danny Espinosa grounded out to short to end a 17-pitch frame. 81 total for Greinke. 41 ⅔ scoreless overall.
Clint Robinson lined a single to right with one down in the Nationals' seventh, but two outs later he was stranded as Greinke completed his seventh scoreless today, leaving him at 42 ⅔ scoreless overall in his last six starts. 22-pitch frame, 103 total.
Scherzer came back out for the eighth at 103 pitches and retired the Nationals in order in a 16-pitch frame that left him at 119 pitches total and 43 ⅔ scoreless overall.
• Zack Greinke's Line: 8.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 11 Ks, 119 P, 76 S, 8/0 GO/FO.
3. Random Game Notes: After splitting the first two of three in D.C., the Dodgers are 19-23 on the road this season. Last year, L.A. was 49-32 away from Dodger Stadium.
• The Dodgers have 37 errors as a team this season, Nats' shortstop Ian Desmond committed his 21st yesterday, which is three shy of his season total in 2014 and one more than he had in the entire season in 2013.
• In the last two seasons, the Dodgers and Nationals have been the best second-half teams in the National League with the Dodgers 86-49 for the best record in baseball and the Nationals 84-54, second in the NL and third in the majors, behind the Royals (86-54).
• Adrian Gonzalez's two home runs in the first game of the series in Nationals Park gave the Dodgers 115 total as a team this season, which is the most among NL teams.
• Since 1920, only two Dodgers' starters (Orel Hershiser, 1988) and Don Drysdale (1968) have made more consecutive scoreless starts (six each) than today's starter for Los Angeles, Zack Greinke, who is up to five.
• Greinke's streak of 35 ⅔ scoreless innings is the fourth-longest scoreless innings streak in Dodgers' history, behind only Clayton Kershaw (41), Drysdale (58) and Hershiser (59). Greinke passed Kershaw on the list in the sixth today.
• Wilmer Difo is still on the Nationals' 25-man roster. We promise. [ed. note - "In case you didn't believe us, Difo got a PH opportunity in the sixth."]
• Matt den Dekker's pinch hit home run yesterday was the first in a PH appearance in his career. den Dekker's getting the start in left today in the series finale with L.A.
• Drew Storen, who earned his 28th save yesterday, is tied with the Padres' Craig Kimbrel for the MLB lead in one-run saves, with 13.
2. Turning Point(s): The Dodgers loaded the bases in the top of the first with two singles and a walk, but Nationals' starter Max Scherzer threw a 95 mph 1-2 fastball by Yasiel Puig for a swinging strike three at that left'em loaded.
• The Nationals collected their first hit on a one-out single by Michael Taylor in the third, but Max Scherzer K'd trying to bunt Taylor over, and the Nats' center fielder got picked off first on the third consecutive throw over by Dodgers' starter Zack Greinke. Andre Ethier then doubled to start the fourth and scored from third two outs later when Max Scherzer threw a wild pitch inside to Alberto Callaspo that got by Wilson Ramos. 1-0 LA.
1. The Wrap-Up: Felipe Rivero took over for Max Scherzer in the top of the seventh inning. Zack Greinke singled to start the frame. Howie Kendrick sent a slow chopper toward third with one down and beat Yunel Escobar's throw to first. Adrian Gonzalez loaded the bases with a soft opposite field liner to left. When Rivero struck Andre Ethier out, Matt Williams went to the pen for Aaron Barrett vs A.J. Ellis, and Barrett got him swinging to end the frame. Still 1-0 L.A.
Casey Janssen retired the Dodgers in order, striking out two in a quick, 15-pitch frame.
Blake Treinen took over in the top of the ninth and gave up back-to-back singles by Justin Turner and Joc Pederson.
Howie Kendrick bunted them both over, so the Nats walked Adrian Gonzalez to set up a double play or an out at any base, but Andre Ethier A.J. Ellis and Yasiel Puig connected for back-to-back-to-back hits to blow it up, 5-0 LA.
Sammy Solis came on and eventually got out of the inning...
J.P. Howell came on for the Dodgers in the ninth. Yunel Escobar singled, but was doubled up on a grounder to the mound by Danny Espinosa. Bryce Harper singled with one down, and took second on an error, but Clint Robinson grounded out to short to end it. Ballgame. 5-0 LA.
Nationals now 49-41