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Washington Nationals’ ace Max Scherzer passes 250 Ks in fourth straight season; finishes strong in Atlanta...

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Max Scherzer struggled late against the Braves last week in Nationals Park, but he was much sharper last night in SunTrust Park...

Washington Nationals v Atlanta Braves Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The seven earned runs Max Scherzer allowed in his start against the Atlanta Braves last week in the nation’s capital were the most the right-hander has given up this season.

It was a less-than stellar outing by the 33-year-old Scherzer, who walked six batters in that outing as well, more than he has in a start since back in 2013, though four of the six came in a long, 19-pitch sixth in which Washington’s ace tried to stretch himself out with an eye on preparing for the postseason after missing a few starts with a neck issue.

“It played out where the game plan was — conferred with Max — was to stretch him out some,” Dusty Baker explained, “... because he’s on six days’ [rest] his next time out, so that was the game plan.”

“With the postseason coming into play,” Scherzer said, “with an extra day coming up, kind of asked, I said I thought it would be a good idea to try to get me 110, 115, 120 pitch count range.”

He ended up going to 116 pitches, his fourth-highest total of the season.

Tuesday night in Atlanta, in his second straight start against the Braves, Scherzer retired the first eleven batters he faced on 49 pitches before surrendering back-to-back-to-back singles by Freddie Freeman, Nick Markakis, and Kurt Suzuki, who battled the Nationals’ starter for 10 pitches before sending a 3-2 slider through the left side of the infield to drive Freeman in and make it a 2-1 game in the Nationals’ favor.

It was 3-1 in the fifth when Scherzer issued his first walk of the night in the first at bat of the inning, putting Lane Adams on, and the Braves’ outfielder scored on a double to left by Dansby Swanson, when Atlanta’s shortstop connected on a 2-2 two-seamer and lined it to left to make it a one-run game again, 3-2.

Scherzer was up to 97 pitches after working around a single in an eight-pitch sixth, and he came back out for the bottom of the seventh, at the same pitch count he had when he came back out against the Braves in D.C., but this time things went smoothly in a 15 pitch, 1-2-3 inning that left him at 112 total.

Max Scherzer’s Line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 Ks, 112 P, 83 S, 7/5 GO/FO.

“Usually he finishes strong, and that’s why we took him to the max the last time, so he would get prepared for this,” Baker told reporters in SunTrust Park, after what ended up a 4-2 win over the Braves.

“He was strong. Usually Max finishes strong, he’s usually — his last ten pitches he’s all out, and that’s what he was today.”

“This is the type of start you do hang your hat on,” Scherzer said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.

“You sit there and look at the last 15 pitches, that helped extend ... and still being able to execute in the seventh inning. That’s something that I need to do.”

“He was good,” Baker added. “He started the game out great. He had a no-hitter for four innings until Freddie Freeman blooped that ball in there, and then they got a rally, but he left some runners on base.”

With seven strikeouts on the night in Atlanta, Scherzer reached 253 strikeouts overall on the season, making him just the fourth pitcher in MLB history to top 250 Ks in four straight seasons, along with Fergie Jenkins (1968-71), Pedro Martinez (1997-2000), and Randy Johnson, who collected 250 or more in six consecutive seasons (1997-2002).

“He’s in some great company,” Baker said, “so whoo-whee, And he has some more time left.”