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Max Scherzer dominates D-backs, drives in winning run in Nationals’ 3-1 win

Max Scherzer gave up a solo home run in the third, then retired 15-straight D-backs’ hitters in what ended up a 3-1 win for the Nationals.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Arizona Diamondbacks Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Max Scherzer talked last May, before he took them on for the sixth time in his career, about the motivation he had facing Arizona’s Diamondbacks, the team that selected him in the first round of the 2006 Draft and traded him to Detroit in December of 2009 as part of a three-team deal with the New York Yankees.

“Any time you face your old team, you’re going to be excited to go out there and get them,” Scherzer told reporters, as quoted by ESPN’s Eddie Matz.

“But you have to find something that motivates you every single time. You can’t go out there and rely on ‘this is a former team and I’m going to take it to them.’

“You actually have to be motivated to win. Winning is the single greatest motivator of anything there is. Even though you want to win, you want to win against your former teams.”

Scherzer went seven strong in that outing in Nationals Park, striking out 11 D-backs’ batters and giving up just two hits, two walks, and one earned run, but the Diamondbacks got to the Nats’ ace when they went up against him again in Chase Field in July, connecting for eight hits and scoring five runs in five innings.

Scherzer received no decision in that start, however, so he remained unbeaten against his former team, at (5-0) in seven outings against Arizona, over which he’d put up a 3.13 ERA, 13 walks, 64 Ks, and a .195/.257/.391 line against in 46 IP.

In his eighth start against the Diamondbacks on Friday night, Scherzer got himself out of a second and third, no-out jam in a 15-pitch first, and stranded a one-out triple at third in the second, but David Peralta hit a 1-1 curve up and over the plate to right for a solo shot in the bottom of the third, tying it up at 1-1 after Trea Turner homered to left to lead off the top of the first.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Arizona Diamondbacks Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

After helping his own cause with a two-out, ground-rule, RBI double in the top of the fourth, Scherzer retired the side in order in the bottom of the fourth and fifth innings, giving him a total of nine straight outs after Peralta’s home run and 10 Ks from 19 D-backs’ batters faced overall.

Two more 1-2-3 frames gave Scherzer 15 straight outs, and he picked up his 11th K from 25 batters in a 10-pitch bottom of the seventh inning that left him at 99 pitches total on the night.

That was it for the Nationals’ ace, who connected for a second hit along the way to go 2 for 3 on the night in what ended up a 3-1 win.

Max Scherzer’s Line: 7.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 11 Ks, 1 HR, 99 P, 72 S, 1/2 GO/FO.

Davey Martinez told reporters after the second straight win over the Diamondbacks and the fourth win in five games on the current road trip that Scherzer was fired up from the start on Friday.

“He was fired up, especially when Trea led off with the home run,” Martinez said.

“We got that run for him early, and for him, he doesn’t want to let the guys down, so that was a big moment for him and he fed off of that.”

The momentum picked up for Scherzer after he worked his way out of the early-inning jams.

“That’s Max being Max,” Martinez explained.

“It really is. He plays the game the right way, he knows what he needs to do, he knows how to get outs. He’s a student of the game. He really is. He studies all these hitters in between the starts, so he knows what he wants to do.”

In addition to striking out eleven batters, and finishing strong with fifteen straight outs, the Nationals’ ace managed to avoid walking any batters for the second time in nine starts.

“He throws strikes,” Martinez said. “He’s going to challenge guys and he’s going to compete every day.”

“He’s really good. He gives us a chance to win every outing, and that’s very pleasurable for all of us, it really is. The guys love playing behind him, and now he’s become a pretty good hitter, and that’s all he wants to talk about is hitting. But he does well, he does really well.”

Did Scherzer agree with the decision to end his outing after seven innings?

“It was a conversation,” Martinez joked. “But he was good. We wanted to keep him right around 100 pitches. He’s had a big workload the last few starts, so that was good for him.”