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Nationals’ ace Max Scherzer finds a way without A+ stuff in 6-1 win over the Cubs

Max Scherzer didn’t have his A+ stuff as Dusty Baker noted after the Nationals’ 6-1 win over the Cubs, but without it, he still held Chicago to one run on two hits.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

WASHINGTON, D.C.: In his last six starts before tonight’s, including last week’s run at career no-hitter No. 3, Max Scherzer allowed two earned runs or less, posting a 0.94 ERA and a .123/.189/.204 line against in 48 innings, over which he walked eight (1.50 BB/9) and collected a total of 69 Ks (12.94 BB/9).

Washington Nationals’ skipper Dusty Baker was asked after the no-hit bid in his outing in Miami what it was about his 32-year-old ace that allowed Scherzer to dominate so consistently on the mound.

“He’s emotionally and mentally strong and physically strong,” Baker said. “And it tells you what kind of shape he’s in.

“I mean, this guy works as hard as anybody I’ve ever had. This is what allows him to go as deep into games as he does, and he’s still throwing quality, quality strikes.”

In spite of the fact that Scherzer went to 121 pitches against the Marlins, he said he felt he had more to give.

“My arm felt fine,” Scherzer said. “I was still able throw the ball hard in those situations. I wasn’t necessarily fatiguing to the point where I couldn’t face hitters.”

Baker and pitching coach Mike Maddux were watching him closely, Scherzer said, and both, “... were able to read it and they knew I was executing pitches.”

Before the start of the second of four with the Cubs, Baker said he wasn’t concerned about Scherzer’s workload after the start vs the Fish.

“I’m not worried about that, because I asked Max, and Max — he’ll tell you the truth. I said, ‘Hey, man. How do you feel?’ and he said, ‘Great.’”

Scherzer told reporters last night, as quoted by the Chicago Tribune’s Paul Sullivan, that he was prepared for a tough start against the Cubbies.

“They can do a lot offensively,” Scherzer said. “They’ve seen me in the past and have had big games against me. I have to go out there with my ‘A’ game to have success.”

He didn’t have his A-stuff, however, as both Baker and Scherzer admitted after the game.

Scherzer hit the first batter he faced, Anthony Rizzo, and Rizzo came around to score two outs later on an RBI triple to center by Kris Bryant, 1-0, but he held the Cubs to that one run on two hits through four as the Nationals took a 2-1 lead courtesy of a base-stealing display by Trea Turner, who swiped four and scored two runs in the first three innings.

Scherzer helped his own cause with an RBI single on a chopper over the mound with runners on second and third in the fourth, bringing Anthony Rendon in from for the first of two runs the Nationals scored in the inning, 4-1.

Scherzer then retired the Cubs in order in a 14-pitch top of the fifth that left him at 82 pitches after five.

An 11-pitch, 1-2-3 sixth left Scherzer at 93 pitches and gave him 10-straight outs with 16 of the last 17 Cubs’ hitters he’d faced set down. That was it for the right-hander.

Max Scherzer’s Line: 6.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 Ks, 93 P, 62 S, 1/4 GO/FO.

“He didn’t have his A+ stuff, you could tell,” Baker said after the Nationals’ 6-1 win.

“[Pitching coach] Mike [Maddux] said he didn’t warm up very good in the bullpen, and then early in the game you could see he was off, but he found a way to go six innings, which is big.

“We were flirting with sending him out in the seventh, but that was enough, especially after the fact that he had [121] pitches his last start going for the no-hitter and then the shutout, and then eventually lost it, so figured that was enough for him. I told him, ‘Hey, man, we don’t want to hurt you,’ he was not worried about that he just didn’t have much in the tank tonight.”

Without “much in the tank”, Scherzer did, however hold the Cubs to just one run on two hits, striking out six of the 21 batters he faced.

“That’s what great pitchers do,” Baker told reporters.

“You find a way. If you have your good control that night, or if you have a good slider, or a good changeup and then you find out what’s working and then use that and if you have all of them, then Max has no-hit stuff. First you’ve got to find out what’s working early in the ballgame, get through that tough time early in the game, and then later on a lot of times you end up finding your slider, or you find your changeup or you find your control, but you’ve got to get through those first few innings in order to find that and that’s what Max is one of the best at.”