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Max Scherzer and Nationals take series finale from Mets, 3-2: “Max just knows how to pitch.” - Dusty Baker

“You cannot let him get the lead...” - Mets’ skipper Terry Collins on going up against Nats’ ace Max Scherzer

Washington Nationals v New York Mets Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Max Scherzer started Sunday afternoon (2-1) with a 3.68 ERA, four walks, 26 Ks, and a .228/.282/.443 line against in 22 innings pitched against the New York Mets in 2017.

After his last outing against Washington’s NL East rivals, which saw him hold Mets’ hitters to a run on four hits in eight innings in a 7-2 win in Citi Field, Nationals’ manager Dusty Baker, was asked if the 33-year-old righty was the best pitcher he’s managed.

“Lately,” Baker joked.

Mets’ manager Terry Collins said Scherzer is, “... one of the best in the game,” after that matchup and told reporters he knew you couldn’t fall behind on a starter like the Nats’ ace.

“You cannot let him get the lead,” Collins said.

“Those great pitchers, they get the lead and they can chew you up.”

“He’s not a guy to waste pitches,” Collins continued. “I mean, you better be ready to hit, because he’s coming at you and he’s coming at you with whatever he’s got.

“He’s not afraid to pound the strike zone, and you just watch him, when you watch his demeanor on the mound, when he starts walking around with that big long pace he’s got, he’s locked in.”

Collins’ Mets jumped out to a 1-0 lead early in the series finale with the Nationals in Citi Field on Sunday afternoon, with Brandon Nimmo launching a 2-0 fastball from Scherzer into the second deck right for a solo homer in the bottom of the first, but a two-run home run to left by Trea Turner on a 3-2 slider from Jacob deGrom gave the Nationals a 2-1 lead in the third.

Scherzer was up to seven-straight batters set down after he retired the Mets in order in the bottom of the third, and he worked around a single in the fourth, and a double in the fifth, after the Nationals jumped out to a 3-1 lead.

Scherzer picked up his tenth K and issued his first walk in a 14-pitch sixth that left him at 87 pitches. That was it for his outing.

Max Scherzer’s Line: 6.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 10 Ks, 1 HR, 87 P, 59 S, 2/4 GO/FO.

“He had an excellent slider, and he came right after the hitters,” Baker said after what ended up a 3-2 win.

“He made a mistake on Nimmo, because it was supposed to be away and it ended up down and in, and you make that mistake on a left-hand hitter, 2-0, most times they’re going to get you. But he made his pitches, and we thought he went far enough.”

"I'm not fighting it," Scherzer told reporters, as quoted by MLB.com’s Jamal Collier and Anthony DiComo after the relatively early hook.

"It's smart considering I only have one more start before the postseason. I got my work in today, executed pitches, and we came away with a win."

Reporters in Citi Field, noting that Scherzer’s fastball velocity was slightly lower than usual at the start of Sunday’s game, before it ticked up late in the outing, asked Baker if it was a cause for concern.

“That’s kind of — Max gets into the flow of the game,” Baker said, “and if you’ve been around Max, just like [Justin] Verlander, we faced him years ago and he was doing the same thing, and then come the fifth and sixth inning he’s throwing 96-100, and Max’s last ten pitches are usually his highest velocity.”

“He knows how to pitch,” Baker added.

“He knows how to conserve his energy. He knows how to conserve his pitch count. Max just knows how to pitch.”