Max Scherzer had a five-start unbeaten streak snapped last time out before his start on Monday in Coors Field, in a 3-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians in the nation’s capital.
He gave up just three hits and two runs, one earned, in that outing, which started with six hitless innings.
Things fell apart, in the seventh, however, when Francisco Lindor singled for the first hit of the game by the Indians, took third on an errant pick attempt and scored on a line drive double to right by Jose Ramirez, who stole third and scored on a single by Lonnie Chisenhall.
Scherzer finished the inning, but was done for the night at that point.
Though it didn’t end how he’d have liked it to, it was another strong start for the 32-year-old right-hander who was left (7-3) in 13 starts since June 1st, with a 1.79 ERA, 17 walks and 118 Ks in 90 ⅓ IP over that stretch after the loss.
Washington Nationals’ skipper Dusty Baker talked to reporters afterwards about what has been different for Scherzer since an up-and-down start to his second season in D.C.
“He’s coming out in the first inning ready,” Baker explained. “Early in the year he was coming out and throwing a lot of pitches and not being in control of the zone.
“But he was in control of the zone like right away. He was focused, he was determined but... he just came out on the wrong end tonight.”
Scherzer has also managed to get an early-season (back to last season really) home run issue under control as the season has gone along.
After he gave up 15 in his first 11 starts and 73 ⅓ IP to start the season (1.84 HR/9), he’d given up nine in 90 ⅓ IP (0.90 HR/9) heading into Monday night’s start in hitter-friendly Coors Field in Colorado.
His 24 HRs allowed were still the most given up by an NL starter heading into the series opener with the Rockies.
It wasn’t the home run that hurt Scherzer, however, though he did give up one, but a return to his early-inning struggles.
He was 23 pitches into the first with one out and the bases loaded (single, two walks) when David Dahl hit an 0-1 slider to center and off the wall for a two-run double that put the Rockies up early, 2-0.
Daniel Descalso hit a sac fly too to make it 3-0 at the end of a 35-pitch first by the Nats’ starter.
Scherzer settled in over the next couple innings, but gave up HR No. 25 of 2016 on a 1-2 changeup to Charlie Blackmon in the Rockies’ fourth, 4-2.
It was the eighth homer in the last seven games for the red-hot Blackmon.
Scherzer ended up throwing 30 pitches in the fourth, pushing him up to 97 pitches overall, so Baker went with a pinch hitter in the top of the fifth, ending Scherzer’s night after a season-low four innings pitched.
Max Scherzer’s Line: 4.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 3 Ks, 97 P, 61 S, 2/4, GO/FO.
“Max was like, in the beginning, I mean, he threw a bunch of pitches early and that’s why we had to go get him,” Baker told reporters after what ended up a 5-4 win.
“Rarely do you see him have 100 pitches almost in what did he have, four innings?”
“As inefficient as I pitched, we got a win today,” Scherzer said, as quoted by MASN’s Byron Kerr:
“I just didn’t pitch efficiently. I just didn’t do a lot of things right tonight. Just couldn’t get in a groove. They made me work for it. I felt like every single at-bat kept getting grinded out. I threw 100 pitches in four innings basically.
“But at the same time, I’ve been throwing the ball well. I’m not going to sit here and beat myself up. Just spit this one out and now I get ready for Atlanta.”
As for what caused Scherzer’s issues?
“It was him missing,” Baker said. “I mean, he was missing outside and then he was missing inside. He was missing up. He was just missing. Those things happen.”
With Scherzer out early, the Nationals were forced to rely on their relievers with Matt Belisle, Sammy Solis, Blake Treinen, Shawn Kelley and Mark Melancon combining for five scoreless as the Nats rallied to take the lead.
“You know when you come in here you’re going to have to spread it out through your bullpen and our bullpen did an outstanding job,” Baker said.
“The bullpen came in and bailed each other out, got some key double plays. That was the story on the night.”
• We talked about the Nationals’ win, Scherzer’s outing and more on Nats Nightly after the game: