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Nationals' lack of offense vs Noah Syndergaard, Max Scherzer's home run issues hurt in 2-0 loss

Washington Nationals' right-hander Max Scherzer gave up two home runs in his 20 strikeout start vs the Detroit Tigers last week, but the Nats managed to win. He gave up two home runs again last night, but the New York Mets' pitchers shut the Nationals out.

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Dusty Baker left Max Scherzer in for nine innings and a season-high 119 pitches so the 31-year-old right-hander had a shot at the record for strikeouts in a nine-inning game in his previous start before last night's.

Scherzer got his 20th strikeout from the next-to-last batter he faced in the ninth inning of that outing against the Detroit Tigers, tying the major league mark.

Baker said afterward that the high pitch count might affect how long he let Scherzer go in his next outing, which was last night's start against the New York Mets in Citi Field.

"The gopher ball has been sort of haunting him, but usually you give up two solos against a lesser pitcher, you're usually not going to lose..." -Dusty Baker on Max Scherzer's continuing home run issues

"How often do you have a chance to make history like that?" Baker asked rhetorically. "We just have to watch him in his next start."

Scherzer, who'd had an up and down season leading up to his start vs the Tigers, was facing a New York Mets team that entered the three-game set with Washington in Citi Field with 53 home runs through 37 games this season, good for fourth in the majors. It took them 62 games to reach that total last season.

That posed a potential problem for Scherzer, who has struggled to keep the ball in the yard since late last season and had given up 11 home runs in 52 innings this season (1.90 HR/9 up from a 1.01 HR/9 career average) before tonight.

His 1.90 HR/9 were the third-highest home runs per nine innings amongst qualified NL starters and the eleven homers were the most total home runs allowed.

Mets' leadoff man Curtis Granderson hit the 12th home run of the year off Scherzer on the first pitch the Nationals' starter threw last night.

Granderson sent a fastball up in the zone inside out to right field to make it 1-0 early in the series opener. That was all the scoring the Mets would need.

Michael Conforto took Scherzer deep in the bottom of the third, hitting an 89 mph 2-2 cutter to right for a two-out solo blast that put the Mets up, 2-0.

The Nats were shut out over seven innings, with Noah Syndergaard, Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia combining to keep Washington off the board in the series opener in New York, and the Mets took advantage of the few opportunities Scherzer provided.

"One thing when you face a great pitcher, you're not going to get a lot of mistakes," Mets' skipper Terry Collins told reporters after the win.

"One thing when you face a great pitcher, you're not going to get a lot of mistakes. When you get a mistake, you better do damage with it ..." -Mets' skipper Terry Collins on taking advantage of opportunities

"When you get a mistake, you better do damage with it and that's what [Granderson] did and that's what Michael did and you saw after that, he beared down in certain situations and made big pitches."

Granderson's ambush home run on the first pitch of the game, Scherzer said, he could live with, the second was about lack of execution.

"It’s the first pitch of the game; I’m not going to beat myself up over that," Scherzer said, as quoted by MASN's Mark Zuckerman, when asked about Granderson's blast.

"It’s kind of what happens. The Conforto one, look, I made a mistake. He got it. You go out there and you try to execute pitches. If my mindset was wrong, or if I didn’t think the sequence was right, that’s where I hold myself accountable and I start questioning: ‘What am I doing out there?’ But it just comes down to the execution."

"That's been his nemesis most of the year," Baker said of the home runs balls. Scherzer gave up two in the 20 K start as well, but the Nationals provided run support in that game.

"He was good, I mean, he was very good," Baker continued.

"The home run ball, the gopher ball has been sort of haunting him, but usually you give up two solos against a lesser pitcher, you're usually not going to lose and Syndergaard was, I mean, he was throwing the heck out of the ball over there."

The positive spin on all the home runs Scherzer has allowed?

"At least you know he's throwing strikes and they know that he's throwing strikes," Baker said.

"I don't know what his history is in the past, but like I said, most of his home runs are solos, so if you're going to give them up, that's how you want to give them up, solo home runs, but you can't win if you don't score, if the other team shuts you out."

Baker and Scherzer had a brief discussion on the mound before he was lifted with one out in the sixth, after giving up a single on his 98th pitch of the game. Baker was asked if he was heading out there to talk to Scherzer or take him out?

"I was sure I was going to take him out," Baker said, "because he had just gone a whole bunch of pitches in his 20 strikeout [start]. And so we've got a long year to go and you certainly -- at that point in time I knew I was going to take him out when I went out there."