Max Scherzer didn't reach 30 pitches overall until the third inning of his last start before today's, when he gave up just one run on five hits in seven innings of work in a win over the Philadelphia Phillies last weekend in Citizens Bank Park.
Scherzer threw 31 pitches in the bottom of the first inning this afternoon in Miami, just 17 for strikes as he struggled with his command and gave up three hits early, one of them a three-run blast by Marcell Ozuna, who hit a 94 mph 1-1 fastball inside out to left field in Marlins Park to put the home team up 3-1 after one in the series finale in South Florida after Bryce Harper hit a solo home run to give the Nationals an early lead.
Scherzer's 48th pitch of the game was lined to left-center by Marlins' third baseman Martin Prado, who improved to 9 for 20 career against the Nats' right-hander with the RBI single, driving in the fourth run of the game for the Marlins, to make it 4-1.
Scherzer settled in after the long second, retiring the next seven batters he faced before Ichiro Suzuki singled to start the Marlins' fifth.
Prado singled again in the at bat that followed (10 for 21 vs Scherzer), sending Ichiro around to third before he scored on a two-out double to center by Justin Bour that made it 5-1 Miami.
Scherzer was up to 99 pitches after the 24-pitch fifth and done for the day.
"He wasn't sharp," Dusty Baker told reporters after the loss.
"He was getting some balls up. That one inning, in the first, really hurt him, that three-run homer and it got them right back on the board and with the lead, but he got us as far as he could go, because he did save our bullpen."
Baker was sure, however, that it wasn't an injury issue for the 31-year-old starter.
"Physically, he was fine," Baker explained. "He was just out of sync. And sometimes that happens. And Max will be fine, we're not worried about Max, and I just hope Max isn't worried about Max."
Max isn't worried about Max. He said after the outing that he knew what wasn't working and was determined to work on improving what was wrong before his next outing.
"When I reflected on the outing and i looked at video, I realized that I'm just not finishing my pitches, I'm just not getting through the ball. It's not me. I threw some pitches today that -- were in location that I'm happy with, but they got hits on.
"Sometimes that happens, and you tip your cap and move on, but I'm also aware of myself and I'm aware of what I do well, and I generate swings and misses, and the swing and misses aren't there and I feel like that's a lack of me just finishing my pitches and coming up with the right sequence."
He did, however, say that he thinks it's an easy fix.
"This is not a mechanical breakdown," Scherzer said.
"This is not anything that's going to take a month to do, this is just, 'Hey, here it is,' adjust and let's go.
"I can take a punch on the chin, come right back out and keep fighting. I've done it plenty of times in my career, and I understand what you have to do. You just have to own it and for the next four days go out there and do your work so you can go out there and have success."