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Washington Nationals 7-2 over St. Louis Cardinals to avoid sweep: Max Scherzer dominates; Bryce Harper homers twice

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Max Scherzer struck out 12 Cardinals’ batters and led the Nationals to a 7-2 win with help from Nationals’ slugger Bryce Harper, who homered in each of his first two at bats...

MLB: Washington Nationals at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

“They kept us in the ballpark the last couple days,” Washington Nationals’ skipper Dusty Baker told reporters after the second consecutive loss in Busch Stadium on Saturday night, “... which is hard to do.”

“We’re due to erupt before we leave from here,” Baker added.

Baker’s Nationals scored just two runs total in those two losses, dropping 8-1, and 2-1 decisions in the first two in St. Louis.

They had two runs three batters into the game tonight when Bryce Harper hit a 1-2 slider to right for a two-run blast (No. 19) off Cardinals’ starter Carlos Martinez, 2-0.

It was 4-0 Nationals after Harper golfed an 0-2 change out to right for his second two-run blast of the game (No. 20) in the top of the third, and an RBI double to left-center by Anthony Rendon put the Nats up by five, 5-0, after three.

Max Scherzer dominated on the mound, yet again, reaching double digits in Ks for the 10th time this season in the fifth, and going on to toss seven scoreless, striking out 12 total on 100 pitches.

Nats avoid the sweep. 7-2 final in St. Louis.

Nationals now 48-34

HERE’S HOW IT HAPPENED:

Brian Goodwin took the second pitch of the game from Cards’ starter Carlos Martinez to right, by first base, for a leadoff double to start the series finale in St. Louis. Michael A. Taylor bunted Goodwin over to third, and Goodwin scored the easy way when Bryce Harper hit a 1-2 slider to right for a two-run blast, his 19th of the season. 2-0.

Max Scherzer started his night with four straight Ks and struck out five of the first six Cardinals’ batters he faced in two scoreless and hitless.

Harper fell behind 0-2 in his second at bat against Martinez, but went down and got one and golfed another one out, on an 0-2 changeup, hitting it out to right for another two-run blast, 4-0 Nationals.

Daniel Murphy walked in the at bat that followed Harper’s 20th, and Murphy scored on a double to the base of the outfield wall in left-center field by Anthony Rendon to make it 5-0 Nationals over the Cardinals.

Scherzer was up to nine Ks and 56 pitches after he threw a 3-2 fastball by Randal Grichuk to end the Cardinals’ half of the fourth, stranding two runners. Still 5-0 Nationals.

• Carlos Martinez’s Line: 5.0 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 4 BB, 3 Ks, 2 HRs, 101 P, 65 S, 9/1 GO/FO.

Scherzer picked up his 10th K in the #Cardinals fifth, giving him 10 starts with 10+ Ks on the season after he had 13 starts with 10+ Ks in 2016, in his Cy Young award-worthy campaign.

Cards’ right-hander Mike Mayers tossed a scoreless sixth and came back out for the seventh and completed a second scoreless frame.

Scherzer was up to 100 pitches total and seven scoreless frames after a 10-pitch, 1-2-3 seventh inning.

• Max Scherzer’s Line: 7.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 12 Ks, 100 P, 66 S, 5/3 GO/FO.

Sac flies by Wilmer Difo and Brian Goodwin put the Nationals up 7-0 after seven and a half in St. Louis.

Enny Romero came on for the Nationals in the eighth and gave up a one-out single and a two-run opposite field home run by Tommy Pham, 7-2 Nationals.

Stephen Piscotty doubled to right on a 3-2 fastball with one down, but Romero threw an 0-2 fastball by Jedd Gyorko and got a fly to center from Yadier Molina for out No. 3.

Matt Albers came on in the ninth and worked around a one-out walk for a scoreless frame to end the game.

Nationals win, 7-2 final.

NATIONALS PREGAME NOTES:

  • St. Louis improved to 48-34 against Washington in the all-time series between the two teams, though the Nationals have won seven of their last twelve since the start of the 2016 season.
  • Washington is 1-0 on Sunday night baseball heading into tonight’s series finale in ST. Louis, having won an April 23th matchup with the New York Mets in Citi Field.
  • Washington’s offense started the night leading the NL in AVG (.276), OBP (.342), SLG (.471), hits (787), extra-base hits (299), and RBIs (435), while ranking second in home runs (121) and third in doubles (164) and stolen bases (62).
  • Washington’s starter led the majors in Ks (523), and were ranked second in WHIP, opponents’ batting average (.235) and opponents’ OPS (.688) heading into tonight’s game.
  • JINX CORNER: The Nationals scored a run in the ninth last night to avoid being shut out for the 81st time to start this season.
  • Daniel Murphy had a 15-game on-base streak going heading into tonight’s game, over which he’d posted a .316 AVG and .394 OBP.
  • Max Scherzer started the night (1-4) in seven career starts against St. Louis with a 3.14 ERA over 43 IP.

Nationals now 48-34