Max Scherzer went through fifteen starts and 110 ⅓ innings pitched before surrendering his seventh home run (0.57 HR/9) in a Washington Nationals uniform.
The 31-year-old right-hander gave up six home runs in 39 ⅔ IP over six starts (1.36 HR/9) in July.
After giving up two home runs in seven innings last night in Washington's 4-3 loss to Miami, Scherzer has now allowed seven home runs in his last 28 IP (2.25 HR/9).
Marlins' outfielder Derek Dietrich doubled in a run with a long fly ball to right on a 94 mph first-pitch fastball belt high outside in the top of the first to make it 1-0, just missing a home run by a half an out-of-town scoreboard.
Martin Prado went down for a 96 mph 2-2 heater inside and hit a two-run home run to left in the third, putting the Marlins up 3-1 after Ian Desmond's solo shot tied it.
Then Marlins' center fielder Marcell Ozuna connected on a 94 mph 1-0 fastball in the fourth and sent a solo home run sailing out to center that traveled 417 feet before it landed.
Scherzer gave up four runs in seven innings of work, settling in and retiring the last twelve batters he faced before he was done for the night.
Over his last five starts, Scherzer is now (0-3) with a 6.43 ERA, a 4.58 FIP and a .282/.333/.548 line against in 28 innings pitched.
"I think he was okay," Matt Williams told reporters after last night's game.
"The ball down and in to Prado for the homer and then Ozuna got one up, out over that he hit over the center field fence, but three swings of the bat was enough for them against him tonight.
"He was strong, throwing the ball like he wanted to, he just made a couple of mistakes."
The increased home run totals?
"I don't think the pitch to Prado is a bad pitch," Williams said.
"It's a good swing. I would imagine that if you ask [Max] he'd like the ball to Ozuna to be down a little bit, that ball's up.
"And then the ball in the first inning off the wall, but okay... we came back there a little bit, he got to a point where we had to pinch hit for him, but like I said, three swings of the bat were enough for them."
Scherzer's catcher, Wilson Ramos, didn't have an explanation for the increased home run totals either.
"I don't see anything different," Ramos said. "Just pitches in the top of the zone. Those guys have a bat in their hands. They're aggressive and they hit the ball well, so nothing's changed. He's doing his best."
The numbers have changed, however.
After posting a 2.11 ERA, a 2.24 FIP and a .183/.214/.299 line against in 132 innings in the first half, Scherzer now has a 5.09 ERA, a 4.22 FIP and a .269/.323/.495 line in 46 innings pitched in the second half.
He's gone from 10.23 K/9 and 0.95 BB/9 in the first half to 11.54 K/9 and 2.35 BB/9 since the All-Star Break.
"My offspeed stuff is right where it needs to be," Scherzer told reporters, including MLB.com's Bill Ladson, after the loss:
"Slider, changeup, curveball, they are all there. I'm not sitting here kicking chairs around because I'm frustrated how I pitched. My stuff is there. There are a couple of mistakes within my outing that I have to shore up.
"I have to keep that focus at 100 percent. I'm not saying I'm losing focus. I have to keep it dialed in, [keep that] hungry feeling going. You make little mistakes at this level, they make you pay."
"I think maybe if I could tell a difference it may be location," Williams said.
"I think he's strong, reaching back for 98 tonight. I don't think there's an issue there. I know that he feels good. Location may not be as good as it was during that good streak that he had."
The Nationals battled back, but fell short last night, dropping the series opener to the Marlins, and unfortunately they did so on a night on which the NL East-leading New York Mets actually lost for the first time in eight games.
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