Baltimore Orioles’ hitters started Thursday night’s game with a major league-leading 197 home runs on the year.
Washington Nationals’ starter Max Scherzer started the night with the second-most HRs given up among National League starters: 25 in 174 IP (1.29 HR/9).
It didn’t seem like a good matchup, for the Nationals’ hurler at least, though Scherzer had managed to limit the damage on the home runs he’d allowed.
Heading into the series finale with the Orioles, 16 of the 25 HRs Scherzer gave up were solo shots, and he had cut down on home runs overall in the second half with just four allowed in 46 ⅓ innings (0.78 HR/9) after he gave up 21 in 127 ⅔ IP before the All-Star Break (1.48 HR/9).
Before the game, Nationals’ manager Dusty Baker talked to reporters about how Scherzer should approach the matchup.
“You’ve got to keep the ball in the ballpark and try not to walk guys in front of them,” Baker said.
“That’s the key. You can give up solos as long as it’s not the bottom of the ninth, and it’s a loss.
“Solos haven’t hurt Max that often, it’s just the home runs that happen when you walk guys or consecutive hits, two or three-run home runs are the ones that kind of put us to sleep. Like [Matt] Wieters last night, that was a big home run that he hit.”
Wieters’ three-run blast last night capped off a five-run eighth inning that gave the O’s the insurance runs they needed in what ended up a 10-8 game when the Nats rallied in a five-run bottom of the ninth.
As Baker said, Baltimore’s hitters have been swinging for the fences for so long it’s pretty much an Orioles’ tradition.
“The Orioles have been living on that three-run home run since the days of Earl Weaver and so they continue to live on them,” Baker said.
“They’ve got a potent lineup, we knew that coming in here.”
Scherzer handled the Orioles through the first four innings, giving up just one hit while striking out seven on 51 pitches.
Jayson Werth gave the Nationals’ starter a 1-0 lead to work with, hitting a solo shot to center on a first-pitch fastball from Ubaldo Jimenez in the home half of the fourth.
An efficient, seven-pitch, 1-2-3 fifth left Scherzer at 58 pitches, and a six-pitch top of the sixth pushed him up to 64.
It took him 12 pitches to get through to the top of the seventh and he came back out for the eighth at 76 total.
His streak of 12-straight Orioles set down ended on a leadoff single by Mark Trumbo, but Scherzer retired the next three batters, striking out two in a 19-pitch frame that left him at 95 pitches.
Daniel Murphy drove in a run with an RBI double in the Nationals’ half of the eight and Bryce Harper doubled to bring in two more and make it a 4-0 game.
Max Scherzer’s Line: 8.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 10 Ks, 95 P, 72 S, 6/4 GO/FO.
Mark Melancon tossed a scoreless ninth to finish the O’s off, 4-0 final.
“That was a masterful, masterful job by Max,” Baker told reporters.
“He was similar to when he pitched against the Tigers,” Baker added, referring of course to Scherzer’s 20 K outing.
“He was very determined. The Tigers had a powerful offense, these guys had a powerful offense.
“He threw his fastball where he wanted it and then he threw his breaking ball near or out of the zone.
“He had some good changeups against the left-handers and [Jose] Lobaton called a heck of a game for him. It’s hard to shut those guys out.”
Scherzer not only shut them out for eight innings, he held the Orioles to just two hits, retiring 24 of the 26 batters he faced.
“He had his command,” Baker said.
“He had very low pitch counts in the first two innings. Sometimes he gets in trouble when he has that high pitch count.
“I don’t know what he had, I think he had eight or nine in the first inning and then I looked up there and in the sixth, I think he had like 66 pitches, or something like that which is about ten an inning, which is low, very low.
Are the eyes in the back of his head also different colors? pic.twitter.com/WEcVuteO08— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) August 26, 2016
“He possibly could have finished that game, but they had some dangerous hitters coming up at the top of the order.
“Adam Jones has been his nemesis since [Scherzer] was in the American League and that’s why we went to Melancon and then he did the job.”
Jones started the night 11 for 25 (.440/.440/.880) with two doubles and threee homr runs off Scherzer in their respective careers. Jones collected one the Orioles’ two hits, so Baker avoided that late matchup.
“This is Max’s night tonight and [Jayson Werth] had a big night, he got us on the board with a booming home run and like I said, any time you hold those guys in the ballpark you’ve done a good job.”
• We talked about Scherzer’s outing, Werth’s old man strength and more on Nats Nightly: