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Max Scherzer returns to St. Louis, shuts down Cardinals as Nationals sweep

That's the best I've seen Max this year," Dusty Baker told reporters after Washington Nationals' ace Max Scherzer tossed seven scoreless against the Cardinals in the series finale in St. Louis. Scherzer made the adjustments he needed to and bounced back.

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Max Scherzer was fairly confident he identified the mechanical adjustment he needed to make after back-to-back starts in which he struggled with his command.

He allowed fifteen hits, six walks and eight runs, all earned, over eleven innings of work in a loss to the Miami Marlins and loss for the Washington Nationals against the Philadelphia Phillies in which he received no decision.

"From a mechanical standpoint, my body is working, now I've just got to get my arm to fire through the release point and get extension towards home plate..." -Max Scherzer diagnosing his own mechanical issues in Miami

"From a mechanical standpoint," Scherzer said, "my body is working, now I've just got to get my arm to fire through the release point and get extension towards home plate and it looks like it's just cutting off just a few inches and those few inches matter."

"That's just something that as you keep making tweaks and keep finding stuff, you're able to get back into the zone.

"I walked four guys tonight and that's just unacceptable and that's a cause of having bad fastball location.

"I know if I dial that in and start attacking the zone the walks will go away and I'll be ahead in the count and typically where I have success."

Scherzer attacked the zone on Sunday afternoon in St. Louis, returning to the town he was born in and dominating the Cardinals in a 6-1 win in which he threw 105 pitches, 73 for strikes, over seven scoreless, giving up four hits, striking out out nine batters and walking no one.

Of the 55 fastballs he threw, 44 were for strikes (80%).

Nats' skipper Dusty Baker was asked about the importance of Scherzer locating his fastball.

"That opens up everything. It's location, location, location and when you're throwing 95-96, then the advantage is yours, big time.

"He was definitely deceptive. You could tell. Some of the hitters had some not-too-good swings." -Dusty Baker on Max Scherzer in St. Louis

"And when you're not locating the fastball, it doesn't open up anything. If you're locating you fastball it opens up your breaking ball and your offspeed and everything because everything is designed to look like a fastball.

"He was definitely deceptive. You could tell. Some of the hitters had some not-too-good swings."

Cards' starter Carlos Martinez threw five scoreless before the Nationals scored a run in the sixth on an RBI single by Matt den Dekker and two more on home runs by Clint Robinson and Danny Espinosa, which came on consecutive pitches in the seventh.

Cards' skipper Mike Matheny wasn't surprised to see Scherzer throw like he did, even if the veteran starter struggled in his previous outings.

"He's just a good pitcher. He had what he needed today. You had two very good pitchers going at it and locked horns, just who flinches first and they jumped on a couple pitches that made the difference."

"Max was pitching," Baker said. "That's the best I've seen Max this year. He was sharp, sharp with his breaking ball, good velocity, he got a couple hits, he got a sac bunt down that led to the first run. It wasn't only the offense's day, it was Max's day. Max kept us in the game until our offense did something."

Baker didn't have any insight into what Scherzer did differently, but he said Mike Maddux and Scherzer sorted things out before he took the mound. As for what they changed?

"You've got to ask Mike that, because he found something in the bullpen," Baker said.

"I'm not exactly sure what it is, but I don't really care as long as he found it. So hopefully Max can get on a roll, like he can get on. Boy, that was a tough game. That was a pitchers' duel. You knew it was going to be a tough when the day started and it was just a matter of who broke out first and it happened to be us."

As the Nationals noted on Twitter, Scherzer's outing capped off a strong run by the Nationals' starters, who put up a 1.08 ERA (4 ER/33.1 IP) with 33 Ks, eight walks and 25 hits allowed in their last turn through the rotation.

Stephen Strasburg, Joe Ross and Scherzer, who started the three games in St. Louis, allowed three runs between them over twenty innings of work against the Cardinals.

"I love it," Baker said. "You've got to give them credit, the guys that are throwing it. You've got to give the catchers credit for following Mike Maddux's game plan and you've got to give him credit for coming up with it.

"[Maddux[ gets here earlier than anybody, him and [bullpen coach] Dan Firova, you know how they're going to pitch and attack a lineup. And like they say, good pitching beats good hitting. And this is the case certainly so far this year."