5. Scherzer vs the Fish: In four August starts before tonight's, Max Scherzer was (0-2) with a 6.86 ERA, a 4.60 FIP and a .300/.365/.568 line against in 21 IP. After a three-inning, 58-pitch, seven-hit, six-run outing on the mound in a loss to the San Francisco Giants on the road in AT&T Park, the 31-year-old right-hander bounced back with a six-inning start against the Colorado Rockies last time out, giving up eight hits, three walks and three runs in 3-2 loss to the Rockies in Coors Field.
"I think he was more in control of what he was doing and where he wanted to throw it," Nationals' manager Matt Williams told reporters after the loss.
"Good changeups and the fastball was good. So, yeah, ball down the line and then a chopper, other than that he pitched really well."
Scherzer was less pleased with the outing, which left him (11-10) on the year with a 2.79 ERA, 2.68 FIP, 26 walks (1.37 BB/9) and 201 Ks (10.58 K/9) in 171 IP, over which he's held opposing hitters to a .206/.245/.347 line.
"It was just frustrating because I felt like it was good, but it just wasn't good enough," he told reporters.
Scherzer had previously detailed the work he did between starts to fix his mechanics, and in spite of the final result he said there were signs of improvement.
"I made the adjustment," he explained. "Definitely my arm slot was higher, felt like I was on top of the ball.
"Really felt like my changeup was back. Really did some good things tonight, but they were able to find a couple holes and sometimes that led to bigger innings and I just couldn't control those innings."
Tonight in the nation's capital, after his start was pushed back as the Nationals realigned their rotation, Scherzer was taking on the Miami Marlins for the third time this season after going (2-0) with a 3.21 ERA and a .255/.296/.333 line against in 14 IP in the previous two outings.
Martin Prado singled to right with two down in the Marlins' first and scored on a two-out double to right by Derek Dietrich which gave the Miami an early lead. 19-pitch first.
Adeiny Hechavarria singled to right with two out in the top of the second, but was stranded when Scherzer got the opposing pitcher swinging with an 0-2 fastball to end a 10-pitch frame, 29 total after two.
Dee Gordon singled to left to start the third, took second on a one-out wild pitch, and scored when Martin Prado hit a two-run home run to left to make it 3-1 Marlins. 19-pitch third by Scherzer, 48 total after three.
Two pitches into the fourth, the Nationals were down 4-1 after Marcell Ozuna took a 1-0 fastball to center for a solo home run that gave the Marlins a three-run lead. 12-pitch fourth, 60 pitches overall.
A five-pitch, 1-2-3 fifth left Scherzer at 65 pitches. A 10-pitch, 1-2-3 sixth pushed Scherzer up to 75 pitches.
Scherzer came back out for the seventh and retired the Marlins in order, for 12 straight outs and a 10-pitch, 1-2-3 frame that left him at 85 pitches.
• Max Scherzer's Line: 7.0 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 8 Ks, 2 HRs, 85 P, 66 S, 8/2 GO/FO.
4. Conley in D.C.: Selected by the then-Florida Marlins out of Washington State University in the second round of the 2011 Draft, left-hander Adam Conley, 25, spent five seasons in the minors before he was called up to make his MLB debut earlier this season. In eight appearances and four starts before tonight's, he was (1-1) with a 4.88 ERA, a 4.21 FIP, 10 walks (3.25 BB/9), 21 Ks (6.83 K/9) and a .288/.350/.462 line against in 27 ⅔ IP before taking the mound to face the Washington Nationals.
Conley was coming off a solid outing, however, which saw him go six innings on the mound in Marlins Park in a 2-0 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies in which he gave up three hits, four walks and one earned run.
"I thought maybe his best two innings were his last two," Marlins' skipper Dan Jennings told reporters after the loss.
"He really attacked the zone, threw a lot of quality strikes, had his changeup going well."
The lefty, who features a fastball which averages 90.5 mph, a change, 83.4, and slider, 83.8, struck out five of the 25 batters he faced, and limited the Phillies to just the one run, though Miami's offense didn't provide any support.
Tonight he was taking on a Nationals team that started the night with a .244/.312/.377 line against lefties this season, good for 9th/10th/9th in the National League.
Given a 1-0 lead to work with before he took the mound, Conley retired the first two batters he faced before Nats' slugger Bryce Harper lined a single to right. Ryan Zimmerman K'd swinging at an 0-2 fastball in the next at bat, however, ending a 17-pitch first.
Ian Desmond got all of the first pitch from Conley in the second, tying it up with one swing on an opposite field home run to right that cleared the out-of-town scoreboard. No.16 of 2015. 1-1 in D.C. 11-pitch second, 28 total after two.
With the score 3-1 Marlins, Conley retired the Nationals in order in a 15-pitch, 1-2-3 third that left him at 43 total.
Ryan Zimmerman lined a single off the lefty's leg in the fourth, but was erased on an inning-ending 6-4-3 off Ian Desmond's bat. 10-pitch fourth, 53 total.
Wilson Ramos hit an 0-1 change out to left for a solo home run with one out in the bottom of the fifth to make it 4-2. Conley got the next two outs for a 14-pitch frame that pushed him up to 67 pitches.
Jayson Werth hit a ground-rule double to right in the first at bat of the Nats' sixth and Anthony Rendon singled to left to put runners on the corners for Bryce Harper, who walked. That was it for Conley...
• Adam Conley's Line: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 6 Ks, 2 HRs, 83 P, 59 S, 3/1 GO/FO.
3. Random Game Notes: The Marlins entered tonight's game 5-4 against the Nationals so far this season, winning four of six in Miami, but just one of three so far in the nation's capital.
• Marlins' infielder Dee Gordon started the night second overall in the majors with a .333 AVG on the year, behind only Bryce Harper (.334).
Perfect weather for some Friday baseball. pic.twitter.com/YCob8esZEx— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) August 28, 2015
• For today's Fish-themed "Fun with Arbitrary End Points" segment: Marlins' infielder Martin Prado has reached base in 22 of 23 games since August 2nd, with a .279/.347/.84 line, three doubles, two home runs and nine walks over the stretch.
• The Nationals announced today that Denard Span will undergo surgery on his left hip on Tuesday, effectively ending his 2015 campaign.
• Matt den Dekker was called up to take Span's spot on the roster, but with Michael Taylor injured as well after hitting his right knee on the center field wall on a running play in last night's game, it will be Bryce Harper starting in center for the first time this season tonight.
• For tonight's Nationals-centric "Fun with Arbitrary End Points" segment: Anthony Rendon is 8 for 18 over his last five games (.444/.565/.833) with a double, two home runs, five walks and seven runs scored over that stretch.
• Ian Desmond has a .295/.355/.535 line, five doubles, a triple and eight home runs in 35 games since July 20th.
• Max Scherzer went over 200 Ks for the season last time out, becoming the third Nationals' pitcher with 200 Ks in a season.
2. Turning Point(s): First-year Marlins' third baseman Martin Prado, who was acquired from the New York Yankees this winter, stepped to the plate with two out in the first 12 for 37 (.324/.359/.351) against the Nationals this season, and improved to 13 for 38 with a two-out opposite field single off Max Scherzer. Derek Dietrich got hold of a first-pitch fastball in the at bat that followed and bounced an RBI double off the out-of-town scoreboard to give Miami a 1-0 lead early int he series opener in the nation's capital.
• Marlins' lefty Adam Conley started the night with a scoreless, 17-pitch first, but his 18th pitch of the game ended up in the seats above the out-of-town scoreboard as Ian Desmond took him deep with a game-tying opposite field blast. 1-1.
• Prado improved to 14 for 39 vs the Nationals this season with a two-out home run in the top of the third that made it 3-1 Miami. Marcell Ozuna homered in the fourth, 4-1.
• With the score 4-2 Marlins after five and a half, a ground-rule double by Jayson Werth, single to left by Anthony Rendon and a patient walk by Bryce Harper loaded'em up for Ryan Zimmerman with no one out in the sixth. Zimmerman's sac fly got the Nationals within one, 4-3, but that was all the Nationals got there.
1. The Wrap-Up: Marlins' skipper Dan Jennings went to the pen after the Nationals loaded the bases with no one out in the bottom of the sixth. Kyle Barraclough came on to face Ryan Zimmerman, who hit a sac fly to center field to get the Nats within one, 4-3. Ian Desmond chased an 0-2 slider outside for out no.2.
A wild pitch to Danny Espinosa allowed both runners to move up, and Espinosa walked to load'em back up, but Wilson Ramos lined out back to the mound and off Barraclough's glove to second for out no.3.
Bryan Morris took over for the Marlins in the bottom of the seventh, with a one run lead, and gave up a one-out single to right by Matt den Dekker, who was doubled up on a grounder to third off Jayson Werth's bat. Still 4-3 Fish.
Felipe Rivero threw a 14-pitch, 1-2-3 eighth to keep it close.
Morris came back out for the bottom of the eighth and retired Anthony Rendon. Mike Dunn came on to face Bryce Harper, who grounded out to second. Ryan Zimmerman...? Grounded out to short.
Rivero and Blake Treinen combined for a scoreless top of the ninth.
A.J. Ramos came on for the save opportunity and gave up a leadoff single by Ian Desmond. Danny Espinosa bunted Desmond over/gave up an out. Wilson Ramos K'd swinging over a 1-2 change inside. Clint Robinson? Flyout to right, ballgame. 4-3 Fish.
Nationals now 64-63