With Bryce Harper serving the first game of his three-game suspension tonight, the Washington Nationals carried on without him and beat the San Francisco Giants 3-1 to earn their first ever sweep at AT&T Park.
Max Scherzer just missed a complete game in his last start, falling one out short after loading the bases in the top of the ninth.
He would not disappoint against the Giants, going the distance en route to racking up his 100th strikeout of the season on the final out of the game.
Ryan Zimmerman needed all of last season to hit each of his 15 home runs, but he hit his 15th of the 2017 campaign in the first inning off Matt Cain with both Trea Turner and Daniel Murphy on in front of him to put the Nats up, 3-0 early.
The three runs of support would be all Scherzer needed and the Nationals cruised to their eighth win in their last 10 games.
Washington now 33-19.
HERE’S HOW IT HAPPENED:
• The Nationals have a habit of making mediocre pitchers look like aces, and Matt Cain was no exception last season. The former All-Star was 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA in 10 innings against Washington in 2016 despite finishing the year 4-8 with a 5.64 ERA.
Perhaps Ryan Zimmerman took that fact personally, as he made sure the Nats would tack on a few runs in the top of the first. Trea Turner led off the game reaching first on a grounder that shortstop Brandon Crawford was unable to handle. Two batters later, Daniel Murphy guided a ball up the middle that barely made its way into the outfield and put runners on the corners for Zimmerman.
On the first pitch he saw, Zimmerman took a 75 mph curveball at the bottom of the strike zone and hit it on a rope. It didn’t take long for the ball to find its way over the left field fence and suddenly the Nats were up 3-0 before Max Scherzer even took the mound.
• Scherzer, coming off a start in which he went eight and two thirds and allowed just one run against the San Diego Padres, had everything working early. He retired the first 10 batters he faced before Eduardo Nunez singled to center with one out in the bottom of the fourth. The baserunner would come back to haunt him, as Buster Posey brought him around to score with an RBI double one out later to make it a 3-1 game, on a ball Jayson Werth lost in the twilight above AT&T.
• After the three-run outburst in the first, the Nationals found themselves struggling to hit with runners in scoring position. Cain lasted five innings and a Washington baserunner would make it to at least second base in every one of those frames.
Michael Taylor doubled and Scherzer drew a four-pitch walk in the second, but they were left stranded. Anthony Rendon and Matt Wieters hit back-to-back two-out singles in the third, but Brian Goodwin struck out looking to end the inning.
Turner and Scherzer provided back-to-back singles of their own with one out in the fourth, but Jayson Werth grounded into an inning-ending double play. Finally, Rendon tried to get things started with a two-out, fifth-inning double, but Wieters grounded out and the threat was gone.
• Matt Cain’s Line: 5.0 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 Ks, 1 HR, 94 P, 59 S, 7/2 GO/FO.
• Scherzer, meanwhile, gave up a double in both the fifth and sixth innings but that would be all the Giants were able to manage off him. He made his way into the ninth at just 89 pitches while still racking up nine strikeouts.
• The San Francisco bullpen got to work in the top of the sixth. George Kontos earned the call and pitched two innings of scoreless work, allowing a Turner infield single and Murphy walk but otherwise limiting the damage.
Old friend Hunter Strickland handled the eighth. He walked Taylor with two outs but was able to force Scherzer to ground out and end the inning. Former Nationals’ closer Mark Melancon was given the ball for the top of the ninth and he retired Washington in 1-2-3 fashion.
• Scherzer stalked back out to the mound and finished the job. He struck out Nunez swinging for the first out with a nasty slider. Brandon Belt flied out to Taylor in center and two outs were quickly on the board. Scherzer got Posey on a check swing with his 100th pitch of the night to nab his 100th strikeout of the season and the Nationals earned the sweep in San Francisco.
• Max Scherzer’s Line: 9.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 11 Ks, 100 P, 79 S, 4/4 GO/FO
Nationals now 33-19