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Max Scherzer returns to mound in solid start vs Marlins a week after neck spasms in Miami

Max Scherzer relieved any concerns about the neck spasms he was dealing with in Miami last week with a seven-inning, 114-pitch outing against the Marlins in D.C. on Monday night.

MLB: Miami Marlins at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Max Scherzer’s last start against the Miami Marlins ended after just one inning of work on the mound when he experienced neck spasms after hitting his first career homer in Marlins Park. The problem had been an issue for a few days after Scherzer slept wrong, but he was confident that it wouldn’t be a lingering issue.

Scherzer spoke to reporters on Friday about pushing his next start back to tonight vs Miami in D.C. on an extra day of rest.

“We were like, we can just throw a bullpen tomorrow when I’m truly 100% because I’ve made progress every single day,” Scherzer explained. “And in 24 to 48 hours it’s going to be completely gone.”

Pushing it back a day, Scherzer was clear, was not because there was any issue, they were just taking a cautious approach.

“No one’s even concerned, really. It’s just doing what we think is best to make the start Monday,” Scherzer said.

“His arm is good, which is rested now, and his legs should be good,” Dusty Baker told reporters before Scherzer faced the Marlins again tonight. “I mean, how do you know about a neck, you know, like how often do you have to watch a guy’s neck? You know? So we’ll look into the signs. Max is very honest, he’ll let you know.”

Miami Marlins v Washington Nationals Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Scherzer took the mound tonight (12-5) on the season after 22 starts, with a 2.21 ERA, a 2.83 FIP, 36 walks (2.21 BB/9), 201 Ks (12.36 K/9), and a .168/.235/.310 line against in 146 13 innings, leading the NL in Ks, K/9, and opponents’ SLG (.310), and ranked second in opponents’ OBP and ERA.

Scherzer’s fastball sat 92-95 and he collected two swinging Ks in a quick, 13-pitch, 1-2-3 first, and with a K to start the second, he had three strikeouts from the first four he faced. He picked up his fourth strikeout in a 12-pitch, 1-2-3 third that left him at 40 in three scoreless.

Christian Yelich singled with one down in the fourth, for the Marlins’ second hit, but he was stranded at the end of a 13-pitch frame.

Tomas Telis connected for the third hit of the game off Scherzer with one down in the fifth, lining an 0-1 fastball to center, and one out later, Marlins’ relief pitcher Odrisamer Despaigne (who took over for injured starter Chris O’Grady with one out in the second) hit an RBI single to center to drive in Miami’s first run and make it a 2-1 game in the Nats’ favor.

Giancarlo Stanton hit a 3-1 fastball out to center field to lead off the sixth and tie things up at 2-2. No. 37 of 2017 for the Marlins’ slugger, 2-2.

Scherzer came back out for the seventh at 94 pitches and worked around a two-out walk in a 20-pitch frame, picking up his ninth K with his 114th pitch, an 0-2 slider to Dee Gordon.

Pitching Coach Mike Maddux visited the mound after Scherzer’s walk to Ichiro Suzuki, but Scherzer assured him he had enough left to get the last out, and he did.

Max Scherzer’s Line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 9 Ks, 1 HR, 114 P, 77 S, 7/4 GO/FO.

It stayed tied until the eighth when Wilmer Difo singled to start the frame and scored on a two-out single by Adam Lind that was the difference in a 3-2 win.

Baker talked after the outing about Scherzer getting back on the mound and looking good just a week after the neck issues surfaced.

“He was pretty sharp, really, and his endurance was good,” Baker said.

“The blow that kind of messed him up and messed us up was that pitcher’s two-strike RBI. That’s what got them on the board, he was really dealing before that, and so he gave us all he had. We were thinking about taking him out with Gordon, that’s why I sent Mike Maddux out there, but he assured us that he was fine and he had enough to get the hitter out.”

Any concerns he had, Baker acknowledged, were alleviated for the most part by the end of Scherzer’s outing.

“It does put the mind at ease,” Baker told reporters.

“But I heard him say on his breaking ball he still was having a little trouble. Anybody that’s had any stiffness in their neck, you’re not out of the woods yet until two or three starts maybe down the line.”

“It wasn’t bothering me today,” Scherzer clarified. “It was just a little weak. My neck is just a little weak, I’ve just got to stay on top of it and just do the football exercises and strengthen my neck up, so it’s really not a big deal.”

Asked if he expected to be back on the mound just a weak after the issue popped up, Scherzer said, “Yeah.”

“We were really close to getting it completely fixed up there for that start, just wasn’t able to quite get it in time,” he explained. “I just knew that we just needed to get some work on it, and I just knew that we just needed to get some work on it. I was going to have six days to completely fix it and got it snapped by a chiropractor, and it went away. Now I’m just in the process of strengthening it, and that’s just all it is.”