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Nationals 5-0 over Marlins: Max Scherzer throws eight scoreless in finale with Fish

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Max Scherzer entered today's outing winless in his last seven starts, but the 31-year-old Washington Nationals' ace threw eight scoreless against the Miami Marlins and the Nats avoided a sweep in Marlins Park with a 5-0 win.

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5. Scherzer vs Miami: Washington Nationals' right-hander Max Scherzer took the mound this afternoon winless in his last seven starts, with a 6.08 ERA, seven walks (1.58 BB/9), 53 Ks (11.93 K/9) and a .305/.335/.587 line against in 40 IP over that stretch. Scherzer's last win came in a July 30th outing against Miami in Marlins Park, which saw the 31-year-old right-hander throw seven scoreless innings in a 1-0 Nats' win.

"He was aggressive," Matt Williams told reporters after that start. "Fastball command was pretty good today both in and out, up when he needed it. Pitched well."

""Max is a little bit up in the strike zone," Williams said. "His fastball doesn't quite have that last, late sink that it usually has. It's been a little more lateral." -Matt Williams on Max Scherzer's recent struggles on the mound

A month later, Scherzer lost to the Marlins in D.C., giving up six hits, two of them home runs and four runs total in six innings of work in a 4-3 loss.

"I threw the ball well, but it's frustrating to give up four runs in that game," Scherzer said after the outing.

"Kind of did a lot of good things tonight. No walks, pounding the zone. Lots of first pitch strikes. Didn't fall behind guys. I'm doing everything I'm designed to go out there and do, I just need to execute and avoid some of these mistakes."

The loss to the Marlins was Scherzer's third straight, he received no decision in his last two outings before this afternoon's.

Williams was asked in an MLB Network Radio interview this week to diagnose Scherzer's problems in the second-half, and the increased home run totals against him in particular.

"Max is a little bit up in the strike zone," Williams said. "His fastball doesn't quite have that last, late sink that it usually has. It's been a little more lateral. When that happens and it's up in the strike zone, you have opportunities for balls to get up in the air."

In spite of his struggles, Scherzer began his third start of the year against Miami with a 3.03 ERA, a 2.91 FIP, 26 walks (1.23 BB/9), 225 Ks (10.66 K/9) and a .216/.251/.376 line against in 190 IP.

Martin Prado doubled off the left field fence with two out in the Marlins' first, but was stranded at the end of a 13-pitch frame.

Scherzer retired the side in order in a 10-pitch second, striking Miguel Rojas out to end the frame at 23 pitches overall.

WIth the score 1-0 Nationals, Jeff Mathis hit a soft liner to right for a leadoff single in the Marlins' third, but he was stranded three outs later. 15-pitch frame, 38 total for Scherzer after three.

The Nationals took a 3-0 lead in the top of the fourth. Justin Bour singled to left with one down in the Marlins' half of the frame, but was doubled up on a sharp grounder to second that Anthony Rendon handled before start an inning-ending 4-6-3. 14-pitch inning, 52 total.

A 12-pitch, 1-2-3 fifth left Scherzer at 64 pitches. Ichiro Suzuki singled with one down in the Marlins' sixth, but he was stranded two outs later. 17-pitch frame, 81 total. A 12-pitch, 1-2-3 seventh left Scherzer at 93 pitches.

Jeff Mathis doubled to left with one down in the Marlins' eighth, but he was stranded at second two outs later. Nine-pitch frame, 102 total.

• Max Scherzer's Line: 8.0 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 Ks, 102 P, 74 S, 7/2 GO/FO.

4. Hand Jive: When he faced the Washington Nationals back on August 30th in the nation's capital, Brad Hand gave up eight hits, two walks and five earned runs in 4 ⅔ innings pitched in what ended up a 7-4 loss. Hand followed that outing up with a 1 ⅔-inning start against the New York Mets in which he gave up six hits, two walks and seven runs, before he was lifted.

That start left the 25-year-old left-hander (4-5) on the year in 34 games, 10 of them starts, over which he's put up a 5.20 ERA, a 3.67 FIP, 20 walks (2.17 BB/9), 58 Ks (6.2 K/9) and a .294/.339/.431 line against in 83 IP.

As a starter, the '08 2nd Round pick out of Minneapolis, Minnesota was (4-4) before today with a 5.51 ERA, a 4.51 FIP and a .304/.354/.487 line against in 49 innings.

"Brad just didn't have it tonight. He never really got in rhythm," Marlins' skipper Dan Jennings told reporters after the loss to the Mets in Hand's last start before today's.

At home in Marlins Park, Hand was (3-1), with a 3.51 ERA, a 3.31 FIP and a .250/.303/.370 line against in 18 games, five starts and 48 ⅔ IP, as opposed to his (1-4) record, 7.60 ERA, 4.19 FIP and .338/.385/.507 line against in 34 ⅓ IP outside of Miami.

His second start of the season against the Nationals began with a scoreless, 17-pitch first.

Michael Taylor lined a two-out single to left in the top of the second, but he was stranded when Tyler Moore lined out to center to end a ten-pitch second. 27 total for Hand after two.

Anthony Rendon walked with one down in the Nationals' third and Yunel Escobar singled in the next at bat.

One out later, Jayson Werth took a base-loading walk and the third free pass of the frame, to Ian Desmond, forced in a run, 1-0 Nationals after two and a half in Miami. 24-pitch frame. 51 total for Hand after three.

Michael Taylor walked and took second on a single by Tyler Moore in the top of the fourth, and both runners moved up on a sac bunt by Max Scherzer. Anthony Rendon singled to left in the next at bat to drive Taylor in, 2-0.

That was it for Hand...

Brad Hand's Line: 3.1 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 1 K, 67 P, 35 S, 6/3 GO/FO.

3. Random Game Notes: A win today would give the Marlins their 13th three-game sweep of the Nationals since 2005.

• Through eight games, the Marlins are 6-2 against the Nationals in Miami.

A.J. Ramos earned the save last night, giving him saves in four straight games. He's the first pitcher to do that since Kevin Gregg in 2008.

• Ichiro Suzuki was 0 for his last 15 before his 3 for 4 game last night.

• Brad Hand was making his ninth start and 11th career appearance against the Nationals tonight, after going 0 for 6 with a 7.96 ERA in the previous eight starts and 10 appearances.

• Jayson Werth extended his on-base streak to 21 games with a walk in his first at bat on Saturday night. Over the course of the streak, the 36-year-old outfielder has a .294 AVG (25 for 85) with seven doubles, four home runs and 12 walks.

• Last night's loss left the Nationals 30-41 on the road this season.

• In today's Nationals-themed "Fun with Arbitrary End Points" segment: Washington leads the majors in walks (with 106) and they're third in on-base percentage (.365) and runs scored per game (5.71) in 24 games since August 18th.

Bryce Harper entered today's game ranked 1st in the NL In AVG (.333), OBP (.464), SLG (.649), runs scored (104) and Wins Above Replacement (+8.5 fWAR).

• Harper, who left the game in the first after a collision with (a clueless) Derek Dietrich at second base, started the day six walks away from setting the Nationals' record for walks in a season.

• In a bonus, Nationals-themed, "Fun with Arbitrary End Points" segment: Yunel Escobar has a .460 AVG and a .518 OBP in his last 13 games going back to August 25th. He also collected his 44th multi-hit game in Friday's series opener in Miami.

2. Turning Point(s): Bryce Harper grounded into a force at second in his first at bat against Miami lefty Brad Hand this afternoon, but on the play, Marlins' second baseman Derek Dietrich, in his first start at second this season, failed to get over to cover the bag because of his positioning, so shortstop Miguel Rojas had to hustle to beat Anthony Rendon to the bag.

So when Jayson Werth grounded to short with two down, Dietrich hustled to the bag in case Rojas threw to second for the force, but Harper was hustling and tried to round the base as the throw went to first, only to collide with Dietrich as they both arrived at second. The collision knocked Harper out of the game.

• The Nationals took three walks from Marlins' lefty Brad Hand in the top of the third, with Ian Desmond's free pass coming after the Nats loaded the bases. 1-0 after three in Miami.

• Hand issued his fourth walk in four innings to Michael Taylor in the top of the fourth inning, and after a single by Tyler Moore and a sac bunt by Max Scherzer moved Taylor to third, he scored on an RBI single by Anthony Rendon, 2-0 Nats. Rendon scored on an RBI single by Jayson Werth that made it 3-0.

1. The Wrap-Up: Marlins' right-hander Jose Urena took over for Brad Hand with two on and one out in the fourth and walked Yunel Escobar to load the bases, but Matt den Dekker grounded into a force at home for out no.2 before Jayson Werth hit an RBI single to center to drive in Anthony Rendon, 3-0 after three and a half.

Urena gave up a two-out, line drive single to left by Tyler Moore in the top of the fifth, but got a groundout from Max Scherzer to end a scoreless frame.

Matt den Dekker took Urena deep for a two-out home run to right in the Nationals sixth, 4-0. den Dekker's third.

Andre Rienzo took over on the mound for the Marlins in the seventh and retired the Nationals in order.

Scott McGough gave up a one-out single by Max Scherzer in the top of the eighth, and Scherzer took third on a sharp single to right by Anthony Rendon, but a 6-4-3 DP off Yunel Escobar's bat ended the frame.

McGough came back out for the ninth, and issued a one-out walk to Jayson Werth. Ian Desmond sent Werth around to third with a line drive single to right. Wilson Ramos grounded into a force at second that brought Werth in, 5-0.

Felipe Rivero came on to end it for the Nats in the ninth and retired the first two batters before issuing a two-out walk to Justin Bour. Marcell Ozuna stepped in next and went down swinging to end it. 5-0 final.

Nationals now 72-70