5. Scherzer vs the Orioles: Max Scherzer wrapped up the first half of his first season in a Washington Nationals' uniform with an 8 ⅔-inning outing on the mound in Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Scherzer gave up four hits total, two of them solo home runs by Baltimore outfielder Adam Jones, which accounted for the only two runs he allowed in what ended up a 3-2 Nats' win.
He ended the first half with a streak of 39 ⅔ innings in which he walked no one, striking out 37 batters over that stretch, seven of them in the first-half finale with the Orioles.
"It's just command of his pitches," Williams said of Scherzer's dominant, walk-free streak, which included a complete game one-hitter against the Milwaukee Brewers and his no-hitter against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
"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."
Williams' counterpart on the O's bench was equally impressed.
"He didn't make many mistakes, that's for sure," Buck Showalter told reporters. "He's got so many ways to get you out. He kind of invents different shape to his breaking ball. He has a different -- he'll two-seam, four-seam the ball. He got bored a little bit I think the fourth or fifth inning, broke out the changeup a little bit, but we had three or four balls on the button that we'd have liked to have fall in there, but good pitchers seem to have that."
Things haven't gone as well for Scherzer in the second-half as they did in the first, however.
Before taking the mound tonight in the nation's capital, the 31-year-old right-hander was (2-4) in 12 post-All-Star break outings, over which he had a 4.32 ERA (vs 2.11 in the first half), a 4.09 FIP (vs 2.26) and a .266/.311/.498 line against in 73 IP (vs .183/.214/.299 in 132 IP).
#MadMax is almost ready. #Gametime is next! pic.twitter.com/S6zGnBgRMG— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) September 23, 2015
Scherzer's second start of the season against the Nationals' regional "rivals" began with two quick outs, but he paid for a two-out walk to Chris Davis when Steve Pearce followed with a two-run home run to left. 2-0 Orioles. 17-pitch first.
O's catcher Ryan Flaherty reached on a one-out grounder to short that Ian Desmond dove for but bobbled on the exchange, but he was stranded at first two outs later. 22-pitch frame. 39 total.
Chris Davis doubled to right, through the shift, on an 0-2 fastball with two down in the top of the third, but Steve Pearce grounded out to end a 19-pitch frame. 58 total after three.
Matt Wieters lined a 96 mph 3-2 fastball to right for a leadoff single in the fourth, but three outs later he was stranded as Scherzer retired the next three batters. 16-pitch frame, 74 total.
Gerardo Parra singled to center with one down in the Orioles' fifth and Chris Davis walked with two down but both runners were stranded when Steve Pearce grounded out to end a 20-pitch frame that pushed Scherzer up to 94 pitches.
Given a 3-2 lead to work with, Scherzer came back out for the sixth and struck out Matt Wieters for his 10th K of the game and Jonathan Schoop for his 11th. A 10-pitch, 1-2-3 frame left him at 104 pitches.
Scherzer came back out for the seventh and gave up a leadoff double to left by J.J. Hardy.
Pinch hitter Jimmy Paredes took a 98 mph 1-2 fastball for a called strike three. Gerardo Parra hit a sharp grounder to first that Clint Robinson dove for and handled. With the tying tun on third and two down, Manny Machado stepped in and got to a 2-2 count before giving up a two-run home run into the Red Porch seats on a 98 mph fastball. 4-3 O's.
• Max Scherzer's Line: 6.2 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 12 Ks, 2 HRs, 122 P, 86 S, 4/2 GO/FO.
4. T-Mo on Tillman: The only two runs Baltimore Orioles' right-hander Chris Tillman allowed in six innings of work on the mound in his July 10th start against the Washington Nationals in Oriole Park came in the fifth inning when Tyler Moore and Michael Taylor connected for an RBI double and single, respectively, in back-to-back at bats, putting the Nats up 2-1 in when ended up a 3-2 win for the O's in which the starter received no decision.
The outing was the 27-year-old right-hander's fourth career start against the Orioles' regional "rivals" from D.C., over which he had no decisions, a 4.37 ERA, five walks, 20 Ks and a .297/.340/.516 line against in 22 ⅔ IP.
After that start, Nationals' first baseman Tyler Moore, who was 1 for 4 with a run scored that night, talked about facing Tillman and how the veteran starter approached opposing hitters.
"He likes his fastball up in the zone and tries to make you chase his cutter and curveball in the dirt ," Moore said.
"I was able to get ahead of him and got in a hitter's count and he just threw a heater right there and I was able to put the barrel on it."
Moore wasn't in tonight's lineup, as Nats' skipper Matt Williams went with the left-handed hitting half of the platoon he's been using at first, starting Clint Robinson against the O's righty.
Tillman took the mound tonight in the midst of a prolonged winless streak. In his last six starts, he was (0-4) with a 7.76 ERA and a .302/.362/.484 line against in 31 ⅓ IP.
Tillman warming up. #Birdland pic.twitter.com/Br3RrbH1BK— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) September 23, 2015
Tillman's second start of the season against the Nationals began with a double to center by Anthony Rendon and an RBI single to center by Yunel Escobar. A walk to Bryce Harper (no.119) put two on with no one out, but Jayson Werth lined into a 6-4 DP and Clint Robinson K'd looking to end a 21-pitch frame.
A nine-pitch, 1-2-3 second left Tillman at 30 total after two.
A 10-pitch, 1-2-3 3rd ended with a grounder that bounced straight down off Yunel Escobar's bat, allowing O's catcher Matt Wieters to take two steps and make the tag, 2-unassisted. 40 pitches overall.
A 14-pitch, 1-2-3 4th left Tillman at 54 pitches with 11 straight batters retired.
Ian Desmond was the 12th straight, but Tillman's streak ended with a one-out walk by Michael Taylor. Wilson Ramos doubled to left to bring Taylor around for the game-tying run. 2-2. Max Scherzer stayed in to hit and singled to center, putting runners on the corner with one out and Anthony Rendon brought Ramos in with a sac fly to right, 3-2 Nats.
A single by Yunel Escobar brought Bryce Harper up with two on and two out. Harper took his second walk of the game, fifth of the series and 120th of the 2015 campaign to load them up for Jayson Werth, who sent a one-hop liner to third that allowed Manny Machado to get the out at second. 40-pitch frame. 94 total.
Ian Desmond singled to center with one down in the fifth, but was forced out at second on a Michael Taylor grounder. Taylor stole his 16th base of the season in the next at bat, but was stranded when Wilson Ramos sent a fly to short right to end a 16-pitch frame that left Tillman at 110 total.
• Chris Tillman's Line: 6.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 5 Ks, 110 P, 66 S, 6/4 GO/FO.
3. Random Game Notes: Manny Machado connected on his 500th career hit in last night's series opener with the Nats, making the 23-year-old infielder the youngest player in Orioles' history (since 1954) to reach that mark.
• Machado, who has 29 home runs and 17 stolen bases, is three steals shy of becoming the seventh Oriole to put up a 20/20 season.
• Orioles' slugger Chris Davis entered tonight's game with the major league lead in home runs (43).
• Last night's win left the season series between the Orioles and Nationals tied up at 2-2 with two to play.
• In today's Nationals-themed "Fun with Arbitrary End Points" update:
Washington's offense is ranked 1st in the majors in walks (with 155) and on-base percentage (.367), third in runs scored (194), batting average (.280), and runs per game (5.88), fourth in home runs (49) and fifth in slugging percentage (.465) over the last 33 games, going back to August 18th in Colorado.
#Gametime: 7:05. #LetsGoNats pic.twitter.com/nlJBuohRc9— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) September 23, 2015
• Bryce Harper entered tonight's game ranked first in the NL in AVG (.342), OBP (.471), SLG (.672), runs scored (116), home runs (41) and Wins Above Replacement (9.7 fWAR).
• Matt Williams on Yogi Berra (from this morning's MLB Network Radio interview):
"I played the majority of it in the National League and didn't get to play against the Yankees much, but gosh, what an icon. Fantastic player of course, but it's unfortunate. We can't live forever, but for Yogi, his life lives on through the Yankee organization and baseball as a whole, so we lost a really good one today."
2. Turning Point(s): Max Scherzer's home run woes continued in the first inning of tonight's game, with Orioles' outffielder Steve Pearce making the Nationals' starter pay for a two-out walk to Chris Davis when he hit a two-run home run to left in the at bat that followed. 2-0 O's early.
Two runs. One swing. Thanks @WayneTwentyOcho! http://t.co/xNKXcJ4Wxs #Birdland pic.twitter.com/i4ekO7SmSB— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) September 23, 2015
The home run was the 16th Scherzer's allowed in 74 innings in the second half, after he gave up 10 in 132 games in the first half.
• Two at bats into the bottom of the first, however, the Orioles' had a one-run lead after Anthony Rendon doubled to center and scored on an RBI single by Yunel Escobar. 2-1 O's.
• After the Nationals' back-to-back hits in the first, Chris Tillman retired 12-straight batters before he issued a one-out walk to Michael Taylor in the fifth, and Wilson Ramos followed with the third hit off the Orioles' starter in the next at bat, doubling to left to bring Taylor in and tie it up, 2-2. Ramos took third on a single by Max Scherzer and scored on a sac fly to right by Anthony Rendon, 3-2 Nats.
• Max Scherzer came back out for the seventh at 104 pitches and on his 18th pitch of the frame, gave up a two-out, two-run home run to the Red Porch seats by Manny Machado, who put the Orioles up, 4-3 after six and a half.
1. The Wrap-Up: Matt Thornton recorded the final out of the Orioles' seventh after taking over on the mound for Max Scherzer.
Mychal Givens came on for the Orioles and retired the Nationals in order. Still 4-3 O's.
Casey Janssen came on for the Nationals in the eighth and gave up a leadoff double to left by Steve Pearce. A two-out, intentional walk to Ryan Flaherty brought J.J. Hardy up and a fly to center ended the frame.
Givens retired the Nationals in order again in the eighth.
Jonathan Papelbon retired two batters and then decided to hit Manny Machado up high in the shoulder after missing inside and high earlier in the at bat.
Felipe Rivero came on after Papelbon was ejected and popped Chris Davis up for out no.3.
Darren O'Day came on for the save and retired the Nationals in order. Ballgame.
Nationals now 78-73