5. Mad Max vs Miami: Max Scherzer allowed seven hits in each of his last two starts, but he allowed just one run in six innings in a loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first, before he gave up five runs to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the second, in a 7-5 loss for the Washington Nationals in which he received no decision.
In five July starts before today's outing, the 31-year-old right-hander put up a 4.13 ERA in 32 ⅔ innings pitched in which the Nats' ace has held opposing hitters to a .244/.260/.439 line.
Scherzer received just eight runs of support over that stretch, however, with five of the runs coming in the outing against the Pirates in PNC Park.
Nats' skipper Matt Williams told reporters he hadn't seen Scherzer struggle with his command like he did in that start, in which he gave up three home runs and a rare walk while throwing 98 pitches in five innings.
"We haven't seen that this year," Williams said. "It's going to happen. He'll be ready for his next one."
"I felt good," Scherzer said when he met with reporters after the game, "just made some mistakes."
"Didn't locate the ball on some pitches as well as I needed to and they made me pay for it. They know what I got and that's how it goes sometimes."
Scherzer said that more than anything it was frustrating because he felt like he let his teammates down.
"I did feel like I let the team down. It's also a learning experience. I understand what I need to differently and what I'm going to do differently going forward. I think I'm going to get back to my strengths and get back to what I do best. Just have a little conversation with a couple people and get going on the same page again."
He was facing Miami for the second time in 2015 today, after Marlins' hitters connected for ten hits and five runs when Scherzer faced them back in early May in Nats Park, though three of the runs came on a hanging slider to Giancarlo Stanton late in the game.
Stanton was not in the lineup today, however, as he remains on the DL after surgery to remove the hamate bone from his left wrist.
Scherzer gave up a two-out single to center by Christian Yelich, who took a 2-2 slider back up the middle for the first hit of the game for the Fish, buzzing Scherzer's tower and Yelich stole second with Casey McGehee at the plate, but a groundout to second ended a 20-pitch first.
Given a 1-0 lead to work with after Ryan Zimmerman's solo home run in the top of the second, Scherzer retired the side in order in the bottom of the inning, getting Adeiny Hechavarria to chase an 0-2 slider out of the zone for out no.3 and his first K of the game. 11-pitch frame, 31 total.
A seven-pitch, 1-2-3 third left Scherzer at 38 pitches.
Christian Yelich beat Anthony Rendon's throw to first base on a grounder to short right with one down in the Marlins' fourth, but Casey McGehee chased a 1-2 slider out of the zone away for a swinging K and Martin Prado sent a fly ball to right where Bryce Harper caught out no.3 of a scoreless 15-pitch fourth. 53 pitches.
Derek Dietrich walked to start the Marlins' half of the fifth, but was forced out at second on a grounder to short by Adeiny Hechavarria. Scherzer got the double play he wanted out of Jeff Mathis in the next AB. 5-4-3. 14-pitch fifth inning, 67 total after five.
Pinch hitter Cole Gillespie walked in the first at bat of the Marlins' sixth and Dee Gordon bunted him over/gave up an out. Ichiro Suzuki took the third walk of the game from Scherzer with one down, but Christian Yelich grounded into an inning-ending 4-6-3. 19-pitch frame, 86 total after six.
Casey McGehee lined a 3-2 slider to left for a leadoff single in the Marlins' seventh. Miguel Rojas came on to run at first. Martin Prado fell behind 0-2 trying to bunt, and K'd swinging through a 95 mph 2-2 fastball. Justin Bour stepped in with one on and one out and popped out to Ian Desmond in short-center.
With Adeiny Hechavarria up, a wild pitch allowed Rojas to take second, and he was ruled safe upon review.
Scherzer threw a 1-2 heater by Hechavarria for the K on his 109th pitch.
• Max Scherzer's Line: 7.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 6 Ks, 109 P, 75 S, 9/2 GO/FO.
4. Haren vs the Nationals: Dan Haren initially expressed reluctance about pitching in Miami when he was traded to the Marlins after a year with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2014. A return to the East Coast for the 34-year-old from California was not ideal, after he struggled in his one season in Washington in 2013, but the 13-year major league veteran did eventually report to Miami and he took the mound today in the series finale with the Nationals (7-6) on the year with a 3.51 ERA, a 4.55 FIP, 23 walks (1.68 BB/9) and 84 Ks (6.15 K/9) in 123 IP for the Fish, over which he'd held opposing hitters to a combined .238/.287/.435 line.
One of his 20 starts with the Marlins came against the Nats back on April 26th in the nation's capital, when he gave up three hits and two runs in five innings, throwing 91 pitches before he was lifted.
The Marlins ended up winning the game, and Haren earned the decision against his former team.
Heading into the series finale in Marlins Park this afternoon, Haren was (1-1) in five starts in July, with a 3.94 ERA, a 5.57 FIP and a .298/.346/.551 line against in 29 ⅔ innings pitched on the month.
At home in Miami, the right-hander was (4-2) in ten starts with a 2.83 ERA, a 3.95 FIP and a .235/.295/.395 line against in 60 ⅓ innings pitched this season before taking the mound today.
Haren's 11th start of the year in the Marlins' home began with two quick outs, but he left a 2-1 curve up in the zone for Bryce Harper, who lined it to right for a two-out double before Clint Robinson grounded out to first to end a quick, 17-pitch first.
One at bat into the second, however, the Marlins were down 1-0 after Ryan Zimmerman flat-crushed a 2-2 cutter up inside from Haren and sent it screaming out to left and into the Clevelander. Zimmerman's 6th.
Michael Taylor bunted his way on with two down, but Haren stranded him at first at the end of a 19-pitch frame. 36 total.
Bryce Harper walked with two out in the top of the third, but Clint Robinson sent a fly to Ichiro in right to end a 19-pitch third that pushed Haren up to 55 pitches. A 10-pitch, 1-2-3 third left Haren at 65 pitches.
Michael Taylor walked and stole second to start the fifth (SB no.12), but he was thrown out at third on a weak sac bunt by Max Scherzer.
Scherzer was stranded at first two outs later and Haren was through five innings on 85 pitches after a 20-pitch frame.
Ryan Zimmerman doubled to left on a broken bat grounder by third with two out in the sixth, but Ian Desmond K'd looking at a fastball outside to end a 17-pitch sixth that left Haren at 102 pitches.
• Dan Haren's Line: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 Ks, 1 HR, 102 P, 62 S, 5/6 GO/FO.
3. Random Game Notes: Bryce Harper's single in his second at bat last night in Miami extended his on-base streak to 25-straight games overall and 44 straight games on the road. He ended up going 3 for 4 on the night with two HRs. A two-out double in the first extended those streaks to 26 and 45 straight.
• Harper entered today's game with the second-highest OBP in the majors (.463), having reached base in 86 of 93 games in 2015.
• Ian Desmond was 1 for 4 last night, giving him hits in eight of his last night games, over which he's gone 12 for 31 for a .387 AVG with four home runs, a triple and four walks over that stretch.
• For today's "Fun with Arbitrary End Points" segment, we look at today's starting left fielder, Clint Robinson, who has hits in 11 of his last 14 games going back to July 10th, with a .326 AVG, five doubles and five walks in those games.
• With last night's win, the Nationals are now 1-4 in Marlins Park this season and 3-5 overall against Miami after going 13-6 against the Fish last season.
• Max Scherzer was making his first career start in the Marlins, day-glo, lime green-walled, psychedelic pleasure dome this afternoon.
Gameday ready. pic.twitter.com/iLbiVUMu3z— Miami Marlins (@Marlins) July 30, 2015
2. Turning Point(s): Ryan Zimmerman went 2 for 6 with a double, a walk and two Ks in his first two games off the DL in Miami, but in the second inning today, the Nationals' first baseman connected for his first home run since May 19th, crushing a 2-2 slider inside from Haren that was up in the zone and sending it out to left on a line and into the Clevelander bar for a 1-0 lead early in the series finale. Zimmerman's sixth. Do you know what the kids call him?
• Max Scherzer issued two walks in the sixth, putting two on with one out in a 1-0 game in the Nats' favor, but he got a 4-6-3 DP out of Christian Yelich to end the threat and keep it scoreless through six innings.
1. The Wrap-Up: Right-handed reliever Bryan Morris took over for Miami in the top of the seventh. Michael Taylor singled with one down, and took second on a sac bunt by Max Scherzer before he was stranded there. 1-0 Nats.
Fish tank view. pic.twitter.com/8FHsdtlltA— Miami Marlins (@Marlins) July 30, 2015
Fish lefty Mike Dunn retired the Nationals in order in the top of the eighth inning.
Drew Storen threw an 0-2 fastball by J.T. Realmuto. An 0-2 slider outside got Cole Gillespie swinging/chasing. Dee Gordon stepped in with two out and grounded out to third to end a 10-pitch, 1-2-3 eighth. Still 1-0 Nats.
A.J. Ramos retired the side in order in the top of the ninth.
Jonathan Papelbon came on in the ninth looking for save no.18 of 2015 and his first with the Nationals and got a weak grounder to the mound from Ichiro Suzuki for out no.1. ONE! Christian Yelich lined out to second. TWO!!
Pinch hitter Michael Morse took a 1-1 fastball for a strike, 1-2, and chased a nasty slider in the dirt. 18 for 18 for Papelbon. Save no.1 as a National. [Rizzo points to head].
Nationals now 54-46