Friday night in Chase Field, Max Scherzer took the mound and gave up three straight home runs to the first three batters he faced, one each by David Peralta, A.J. Pollock, and Jake Lamb, and the D-Backs added a run on a two-out RBI single as they jumped out to a 4-0 lead in a 37-pitch first.
Before Friday, Scherzer had allowed just one home run in the first innings of his 19 starts on the season, and he’d given up four runs total in the first innings of those games.
Back-to-back doubles by Pollock and Lamb in the second put the Diamondbacks up 5-0 on Scherzer and the Nationals.
Scherzer, (who started the night 5-0 in six starts against the D-Backs since they traded him in 2009, after selecting him 11th overall in the first round of the 2006 Draft), earned his third win in four starts in his first second-half outing last weekend, and he had a 1.69 ERA, seven walks (2.36 BB/9), 38 Ks (12.83 K/9), and a .140/.208/.247 line against in 26 2⁄3 IP over that stretch heading into the series opener with the Diamondbacks.
He settled in after the rough start last night, keeping the D-Backs off the board after the second and striking out the side in the fifth to give him nine Ks total on 98 pitches, before Dusty Baker hit for the right-hander when the Nationals rallied to score one in the sixth and pull within one run, down 5-4.
Max Scherzer’s Line: 5.0 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 9 Ks, 3 HRs, 98 P, 63 S, 3/1 GO/FO.
The Nationals tied it up at 5-5 in the eighth, but lost the game on a walk-off single in the ninth.
Scherzer and Baker talked after the loss about what went wrong in the first of three in Chase Field.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a game starting off with three homers,” Baker said, “and I’m sure Max hadn’t seen it either, but he settled down, kept us in the ballgame, gave us a chance to come back.”
“They had a great game plan against me,” Scherzer told reporters. “This is a great start to learn from.”
“Look, I had four pitches today, I was using them. They beat me. They came out there, their plan beat me. And that’s what you get, sometimes in this game you get punched in the face and you’ve got to be able to take it and learn from it, and this is a great opportunity for me to learn from, because there’s things I did today that you can tell they’re keying on.
“My stuff is still there, I was able to collect some swing and misses when I needed to, so there’s nothing broke here, I’ve just got to fix some stuff that I’m doing sequencing-wise, and come back out there and get them next time out.”
Peralta hit a 93 mph 2-1 fastball out to right field. Pollock connected on a 96 mph 2-0 heater and lined it out to left, and Jake Lamb hit a 1-1 slider from Scherzer out to put the home team up 3-0 before the Nats’ right-hander recorded an out.
“I was really happy and proud of the way the guys came out and had a great plan against Max Scherzer,” D-Backs’ skipper Torey Lovullo said.
“Arguably one of the best arms in baseball. It’s not something you ever expect to lead off the game with three consecutive home runs, but I thought the approach was good and obviously the results were outstanding.”
“They were first-ball hitting,” Baker said, “looked like he didn’t have his slider command early, and I don’t know if all the balls hit out were fastballs or not, I couldn’t really tell — usually I can tell the difference between his fastball and his slider — but he settled down like I said, and he kept us in the ballgame.”
Scherzer said that the fact that the home run pitches were actually fairly well-located wasn’t any consolation.
“I’m not happy with some of those locations, even though that’s the difference in this league,” Scherzer explained. “You can execute some pitches... they’re not all down the middle, but they’re keying on those locations and I know that, I knew that coming in, but I just couldn’t get the ball exactly where I wanted it today, and when you do that to this type of ballclub and these kind of hitters, they’re really good, they make you pay, and I came out here and gave up four in the first in the blink of an eye, that’s how good they are.”