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Max Scherzer and Dusty Baker hug it out; Nationals beat D-Backs, 4-2

Max Scherzer earned his 19th win of 2016 Tuesday night in the nation’s capital, in the Nationals’ 4-2 win over the D-Backs.

Arizona Diamondbacks v Washington Nationals Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images

The first pitch Max Scherzer threw to the Diamondbacks on Tuesday night ended up going out over the left field bullpen.

Arizona’s second baseman Jean Segura’s third home run in two games in Washington, D.C. put the D-Backs up early, and an RBI double to center by Welington Castillo in the third put the visiting team up 2-0 after two and a half.

Scherzer settled in, however, as Matt Koch held the Nationals hitless over five-plus on the mound in the nation’s capital, retiring seven straight after Castillo’s hit, six by way of strikeout. He ended up with 10 Ks total on the night, and the two runs he gave up early were the only two he allowed.

Trailing 2-0 after five and a half, Nats’ skipper Dusty Baker went to a pinch hitter when catcher Jose Lobaton singled to start the bottom of the seventh, bringing Wilmer Difo up in place of Scherzer.

Difo walked to put two on, and Randall Delgado took over on the mound for the D-Backs and walked Trea Turner to load them up, then gave up a one-out sac fly and a two-out, three-run home run by Anthony Rendon, 4-2.

Scherzer told reporters after the win, his 19th, that he had more to offer and told his manager as much, but understood the decision to pinch hit.

“I told him, like, ‘Look, I have stuff in the tank to go out there and get it, this is a start where you can lean on me if you need it, because next start is a start where you kind of back off just a little bit in preparation for the playoffs,” Scherzer explained, “but I told Dusty, ‘... at the same time, we’re down two runs and we need all the offense we can get and I’m not much offense.’ He told me at first I was going to hit and then he backed off at the last minute, so, he made the right call.”

Baker said he actually changed his mind about two key decisions in that sequence.

“I was contemplating on letting [Scherzer] stay in the game and we talked about it, and then I said, ‘No,’ we’ll go with a pinch hitter,’ and then I said, ‘No,’ — I started to bunt him over to tie the score up, and I also said, ‘No,’ to myself, and I got emotional because I could hear my dad talking to me and my dad would always tell me in situations, always do the right thing, and I thought that was the right thing, to go for the win to give Max a chance to win his 19th, it gives him a chance to win 20.”

Rendon’s 19th home run of the season set Scherzer up for his 19th win.

Scherzer and Baker whiffed on a high five and exchanged an awkward, uncoordinated hug in the dugout after the three-run blast, with the manager admitting afterwards that he did get emotional.

[ed note - “He also cussed a bit, according to Scherzer.”]

“That’s what the emotion was about, you know,” Baker explained, referring to the fact that he thought of his father’s advice.

“Sometimes I wish that my dad would talk to me more and tell me what to do, but that’s what that was about.”

If you’re confused now, not sure whether to admit Baker got you feeling a little just now, while you find yourself wanting to comment snarkily about the “win” stat, consider for a moment what Scherzer has said about it previously...

Scherzer talked after his 20 K start in May about the number, for some reason, having a little mystique in his mind.

“There's something about 20 in the game, 20 strikeouts, 20 wins,” Scherzer said, “those are huge numbers, and to be able to go out there tonight and accomplish one of those, that was a huge feat."

He’s already reached the 20-win plateau once before in his career, in 2013, when he finished (21-3) with Detroit in 32 starts for the Tigers, with a 2.90 ERA, a 2.74 FIP, 56 walks (2.35 BB/9) and 240 strikeouts (10.08 K/9) in 214 13 IP and won the AL Cy Young.

• We talked about Scherzer’s outing and more on Nats Nightly after the game: