Max Scherzer allowed two earned runs or less in 10 of his last 11 outings before this afternoon’s start in the series finale with the Arizona Diamondbacks in Chase Field.
Over that stretch, the Washington Nationals’ right-hander posted a 1.67 ERA with 15 walks (1.79 BB/9), 97 Ks (11.59 K/9) and a .169/.218/.288 line against in 75 ⅓ innings pitched.
In his last start before today’s in the series finale with the D-Backs, Scherzer held the San Francisco Giants to one run on five hits in seven innings in AT&T Park, earning the decision in a come-from-behind, 4-1 win.
“He knows how to smell the finish line,” Dusty Baker told reporters after that game.
“Which is why he has a couple of no-hitters. This guy can smell the finish line. He can smell blood, and when you get him the lead, he knows what to do with it.”
Scherzer gave up three runs total today, two of them on solo home runs after he took a no-hit bid into the fifth and the Nationals’ starter helped his own cause with a two-out, bases-loaded, two-run single in the top of the sixth, driving in what ended up being the winning run in an 8-3 win as the Nats swept the three-game set.
Here’s how it happened:
Trea Turner gave Scherzer a lead in the third this afternoon when he hit a 2-2 cutter from D-Backs’ righty Zack Godley 451 feet to left to make it 1-0 Nationals.
Scherzer retired nine straight batters after issuing a leadoff walk in the D-Backs’ first to complete three scoreless and hitless on 37 pitches. He was up to 12 in-a-row after he retired the Diamondbacks in order in a quick, 14-pitch, 1-2-3 fourth.
Scherzer’s bid for a third no-hitter in a Nationals uniform ended with a leadoff double by David Peralta in the D-Backs’ half of the fifth.
Peralta took third on a wild pitch in the next at bat, and scored when Bryce Harper failed to catch a pop to short right field by Brandon Drury, sprinting in but having it bounce off his glove and fall in for an RBI single, 1-1.
It wasn’t tied for long as Daniel Murphy hit his 21st home run of the season out to right on a 1-1 cutter from Godley in the top of the sixth. 2-1 Nationals.
Anthony Rendon and Danny Espinosa singled and Pedro Severino was hit by a pitch as the Nationals loaded the bases with two out in the sixth and Scherzer helped himself with a two-run single to center that made it a 4-1 game.
Jake Lamb made it a two-run game with a solo shot to right with two down in the sixth, crushing a 1-0 changeup from Scherzer for his 23rd HR. 4-2 Nationals.
Yasmany Tomas got all of a hanging first-pitch breaking ball with one out in the seventh and hit a solo home run to left to get the D-Backs within one, 4-3.
Nats’ skipper Dusty Baker sent his starter to the plate to bunt with two on and one out in the top of the eighth, and after the Nationals failed to score, Scherzer went back out the bottom of the inning and retired the D-Backs in order in a nine-pitch frame.
Max Scherzer’s Line: 8.0 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 11 Ks, 2 HRs, 103 P, 68 S, 3/6 GO/FO.
Danny Espinosa hit a ground-rule RBI double with two on in the ninth, driving in the Nationals’ fifth run of the game, 5-3. Espinosa’s 13th double. Pedro Severino took a bases-loaded, two-out walk to force in the sixth run of the game, 6-3.
Clint Robinson stepped in against Evan Marshall, who replaced Jake Barrett on the mound and drove in two more to make it 8-3 after eight and a half, robbing Nats’ closer Mark Melancon of his first save opportunity.
Melancon came on with a five-run lead and worked around a two-out double by David Peralta for a scoreless frame. Ballgame. Final score: 8-3 Nationals.
Nationals now 64-44
- With wins in the first two games of the three-game set in Chase Field, Washington improved to 44-30 against Arizona in the all-time series between the two teams (2005-present) and 20-8 against the D-Back since 2012.
- Washington’s 63-44 record heading into today’s series finale in Arizona was the second-best in the majors, behind on the Chicago Cubs (65-41).
- The Nationals’ + 131 run differential was the second-best in the majors as well, behind, again, the Cubs (+170).
- Daniel Murphy was named the NL Player of the Month for July this afternoon. He’s hit in 16 of his last 18 games, and Murphy started the day leading the NL in AVG (.356), SLG (.623), OPS (1.018), doubles (32), extra-base hits (57) and multi-hit games (43).
- A single in the 9th left Murphy 2 for 4 today with 44 multi-hit games on the season.
- In today’s Nationals-themed “Fun with Arbitrary End Points” segment: Anthony Rendon is 19 for 55 (.345 AVG) with five doubles, four home runs, five walks and three stolen bases... since July 16th.
- Jayson Werth went 3 for 5 last night and extended his on-base streak to a career-high 35 straight games over which he’s connected for 32 hits and taken 26 walks, with a .387 OBP over the course of the streak. He sat out of the series finale.
- The Nationals started the day ranked 2nd in the NL with 142 home runs as a team, 4th in walks with 377, fourth in runs scored with 507 and fifth in stolen bases with 76 total as a team.
Nationals now 64-44