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Mets 8-5 over Nationals: Max Scherzer struggles again in series opener in D.C.

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The Washington Nationals took a 5-3 lead in the fourth, in an inning which featured a grand slam by Wilson Ramos, but Nats' skipper Matt Williams stuck with Max Scherzer an inning too long and the New York Mets rallied to tie it and went on to win, 8-5.

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

5. Scherzer in D.C.: Max Scherzer took the mound against the New York Mets winless in his last six outings going back to a July 30th game against the Marlins in Miami. Since then, the 31-year-old right-hander is (0-3) with the Nats 2-4 in his starts, over which he's put up a 5.82 ERA with a .308/.344/.545 line against in 34 IP.

Last time out, Scherzer gave up two runs and eleven hits in six innings of work on the mound against the St. Louis Cardinals in Busch Stadium in a 4-3 win in which he received no decision.

"It's September. It's a fight. We've got to play our best baseball now. Obviously, we've got to make up some games and we've got to come ready to play. Every single day now is a fight." -Max Scherzer on facing the New York Mets this week

In his final inning on the mound, Scherzer worked around a two-out double to right by Matt Carpenter, stranding the Cards' third baseman when he struck Stephen Piscotty out for his 10th K on his 108th pitch of the night.

"He gave us all he could," Matt Williams told reporters after the win. "He's at [108] after six. If he gets Carpenter out, we may send him out for one more, for the seventh to try to get through that, but he gave us plenty."

After a winless month of August and in the midst of a less-than spectacular second-half thus far, Scherzer told reporters in St. Louis that it was time to step up in the last month of the regular season.

"It's September," he said. "It's a fight. We've got to play our best baseball now. Obviously, we've got to make up some games and we've got to come ready to play. Every single day now is a fight. I'm not going to say we are going to win every game, but we've got to approach it like that."

"Now it's time for us to answer the bell and go out there and do something. We have the opportunity right in front us."

This afternoon in the nation's capital, where he was (4-6) in 12 starts this season, with a 3.28 ERA, a 2.83 FIP and a .210/.242/.356 line against in 82 ⅓ IP, Scherzer was taking on the New York Mets, against whom he was (0-2) in two 2015 starts, in spite of the fact that he'd posted a 0.61 ERA and a .170/.228/.283 line against in 14 ⅔ IP.

Scherzer's third start of the year against the Nationals' NL East rivals began with a fly to left that Jayson Werth lost in the sun. Ground-rule double for Curtis Granderson. A wild pitch followed, moving Granderson to third. David Wright sent a fly to right, but a strong throw in by Bryce Harper kept the runner at third. Daniel Murphy K'd on a check swing on a 1-2 bender in the dirt. Yoenis Cespedes stepped in with two out and K'd swinging on a 1-2 slider. 18-pitch first.

The first pitch of the second, a 94 mph fastball outside to Michael Conforto, ended up in the left field stands, 1-0 NY. One out later, Scherzer left an 0-1 change up on the zone to Kelly Johnson, and the Mets' second baseman hit the second home run of the inning out to right. 2-0. 25-pitch second, 43 total after two.

A 14-pitch, 1-2-3 third left Scherzer at 57 pitches, but a 1-1 fastball to Yoenis Cespedes cleared the wall in left, just out of a leaping Jayson Werth's reach. 3-0 Mets. 13-pitch frame, 70 total after four.

Given a 5-3 lead to work with, Scherzer struck Wilmer Flores out to start the fifth, but back-to-back doubles by Ruben Tejada and Curtis Granderson made it a one-run game, 5-4 Nats. 19-pitch frame. 89 total.

After Matt Williams left Scherzer in to hit with two on and two out in the fifth, the right-hander gave up a leadoff double on a liner to center off Yoenis Cespedes' bat. Michael Conforto sent a fly to right for out no.1. With Travis d'Arnaud up, Max Scherzer balked Cespedes over to third and a sac fly to left by d'Arnaud tied it up at 5-5. 13-pitch frame, 102 total.

Max Scherzer's Line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 0 BB, 6 Ks, 3 HRs, 102 P, 65 S, 4/5 GO/FO.

4. Niese vs the Nationals: New York Mets' lefty Jon Niese went (3-0) in five August starts in spite of the fact that he posted a 5.17 ERA, a 4.93 FIP and a .258/.341/.452 line against in 31 ⅓ innings pitched, but he ended the month with three starts in which he gave up a combined 18 ER in 16 ⅓ innings (9.92 ERA) over which opposing hitters posted a combined .359/.440/.609 line.

"The sinker was working. His two-seamer was working. He was getting the cutter in on guys. He was using his changeup. And he's just leaving balls on the plate." -Terry Collins on Niese when he's going well/struggling

Niese had a six-start unbeaten streak snapped last time out, giving up seven hits, two walks and six earned runs in five innings of a 14-8 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies.

"When we talked about when he was pitching so well, it was about making pitches," Mets' skipper Terry Collins told reporters after the loss to the Phillies.

"The sinker was working," he said. "His two-seamer was working. He was getting the cutter in on guys. He was using his changeup. And he's just leaving balls on the plate."

This afternoon in Nationals Park, Niese was taking on the Nationals for the second time this season, after suffering a loss in a 1-0 game in D.C. back on May 2nd in which he gave up nine hits, a walk and just one earned run in seven innings or work.

That start left the lefty (3-4) in 11 career starts against the Nationals with a 3.19 ERA, 13 walks (1.73 BB/9) and 59 Ks (7.85 K/9) in 67 ⅔ IP over which Nats' hitters have put up a .285/.318/.407 line.

He took the mound today (8-10) on the year with a 4.17 ERA, a 4.45 FIP, 48 walks (2.74 BB/9), 106 Ks (6.05 K/9) and a .268/.336/.431 line against in 26 starts and 157 ⅔  IP.

Niese's outing began with a quick, 10-pitch, 1-2-3 first that ended with Bryce Harper taking an 0-2 fastball for a called strike three.

Ryan Zimmerman singled to left field to start the Nationals' second, but he was forced out on a grounder to third off Yunel Escobar's bat. Ian Desmond sent another single through short, but Wilson Ramos grounded into an inning-ending DP. Nine-pitch second, 19 total after two.

Max Scherzer walked with one out in the bottom of the third and Anthony Rendon took a two-out walk to put two on in front of Bryce Harper, who lined out to left field to end a 17-pitch third that left Niese at 36 pitches.

Zimmerman was 2 for 2 after an opposite field single started the Nats' fourth and Yunel Escobar followed with a hit on a weak grounder to third. Ian Desmond walked to load the bases. Wilson Ramos stepped in next and... went yard! Grand Slam! 4-3 Nationals. Michael Taylor singled to center in the next at bat and scored on a one-out double to center by Jayson Werth. 5-3 Nationals. That was it for Niese...

• Jon Niese's Line: 3.1 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, 1 HR, 62 P, 36 S, 5/1 GO/FO.

3. Random Game Notes: The Mets started the three-game set in the nation's capital 5-5 in their last ten, 25-13 in their last 28 games and 28-19 so far in the second half.

• Though the Mets are just 30-37 overall on the road this season, they're 19-12 since July 1st.

• In today's Mets-themed "Fun with Arbitrary End Points" segment: The Mets lead the majors in runs scored, with 234, home runs, with 67 and slugging percentage, .489... since July 25th.

• Bryce Harper has homered in three straight games. Yoenis Cespedes has homered in four of his last five.

• The Mets are (36 for 103) for a .350 AVG with the bases loaded this season, which is the second-highest average with the bases loaded in the majors this season, behind only the Nationals (33-90, .367 AVG).

• In his last four starts against the Nationals, Jon Niese is (0-4) with a 4.50 ERA.

• A win today would give the Mets eight wins in one season against the Nats for the first time since 2011.

• Bryce Harper started today's game ranked first in the NL in AVG (.339), OBP (.470), SLG (.652), runs scored (101) and wins above replacement (8.4 fWAR).

• In 17 games as the Nationals' leadoff hitter, Jayson Werth is 23 for 71 (.324 AVG) with seven doubles, a triple, four home runs and eight walks.

• Ryan Zimmerman is back in the lineup today, with a 10-game hit streak going, over which he's 18 for 41 (.439 AVG) with four doubles, six homers and 10 runs scored.

• In today's Nats-themed "Fun with Arbitrary End Points" segment/Ian Desmond update, the Nationals' shortstop has posted a .299/.368/.543 line, eight doubles, a triple, 10 home runs, 18 walks and seven stolen bases in 45 games going back to July 20th.

2. Turning Point(s): Max Scherzer worked his way out of a man on third, no out jam in the first, but the first pitch of the second inning, a 94 mph fastball to the Mets' rookie outfielder Michael Conforto, ended up in the left field seats. One out later, Kelly Johnson hit an 0-1 change out to right for a solo home run that made it 2-0 New York.

• Yoenis Cespedes' 13th home run in a Mets uniform and his 31st home run of the season was the third home run of the game off Max Scherzer, who was up to 14 HRs in 56 second-half innings pitched (2.25 HR/9) after he gave up just 10 HRs in 132 IP in the first-half of his first season in D.C. (0.68 HR/9). 3-0 NY.

• Jon Niese started his outing with three scoreless frames, but the Nationals loaded the bases with no one out in the fourth and Wilson Ramos hit a 1-2 slider out to left for a go-ahead grand slame that gave the Nationals a 4-3 lead. HR no.13 of 2015 for Ramos. Jayson Werth followed with an RBI double that put the Nats up by two, 5-3.

• The Mets picked up a run with back-to-back, one-out doubles by Ruben Tejada and Curtis Granderson in the top of the fifth. 5-4.

• Yoenis Cespedes doubled off Max Scherzer to start the sixth, after Matt Williams left the pitcher in to hit with two on and two out and a balk by Scherzer and sac fly by Travis d'Arnaud tied the game up at 5-5...

1. The Wrap-Up: Carlos Torres took over on the mound for Jon Niese in the bottom of the fourth and struck Anthony Rendon out for the second out of the frame. An intentional walk to Bryce Harper brought Ryan Zimmerman up with two on before a pop to third ended the frame.

Yunel Escobar and Ian Desmond hit back-to-back singles to start the bottom of the fifth, with Desmond's a liner to short that bounced off Ruben Tejada's glove.

One out later, both runners moved up on a swinging bunt by Michael Taylor, on a play that resulted in Torres leaving the game with a leg issue. Erik Goeddel took over with Max Scherzer due up, and Scherzer grounded out on the first pitch.

Goeddel came back out for the bottom of the sixth and recorded the first two outs before Mets' skipper Terry Collins went to the pen for lefty Dario Alvarez vs Bryce Harper, who struck out chasing a 3-2 slider out of the zone. Still 5-5.

Blake Treinen took over for the Nationals in the top of the seventh and gave up a leadoff single to right by Wilmer Flores. Ruben Tejada tried to bunt the runner over, but Blake Treinen made an aggressive throw to second to cut down the lead runner.

Felipe Rivero came on to face Curtis Granderson and walked him when he missed with a full-count fastball.

Matt Williams went to Casey Janssen vs David Wright with two on and one out and Wright singled to center to bring Tejada in to make it 6-5 Mets.

Matt Thornton came on to face Daniel Murphy with runners on first and third and one out and gave up a fly ball to left that was deep enough for a sac fly, 7-5. Yoenis Cespedes double to right in the next at bat and David Wright beat the relayed throw home.

Hansel Robles threw a quick, 10-pitch, 1-2-3 seventh.

Rafael Martin threw a scoreless 19-pitch top of the eighth.

Robles retired the Nats in order again in a nine-pitch bottom of the eighth.

Martin came back out for the top of the ninth and worked around a leadoff walk to Curtis Granderson.

Jeurys Famillia came on for the save in the ninth and gave up a leadoff single to right by Jayson Werth. Anthony Rendon stepped in with a runner on and K'd looking at an 0-2 slider outside.

Bryce Harper worked the count full and K'd swinging at a diving split-finger fastball. Ryan Zimmerman came up with two out and K'd swinging to end it. 8-5 Mets final.

Nationals now 71-66