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Max Scherzer dominates Orioles in 2-0 win; Nationals sweep three-game set in Oriole Park...

Is Max Scherzer really that good? “Yes,” Buck Showalter said succinctly. “He’s really good.”

MLB: Washington Nationals at Baltimore Orioles Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

BALTIMORE, MD: The seven hits and four earned runs Max Scherzer allowed in his last start before Wednesday night’s, in a six-inning outing against the Marlins in Miami, were the most he’d given up in 11 turns in the rotation this season, though he earned the win, extending an unbeaten streak to nine straight starts.

In that stretch, the 33-year-old righty was (7-0) with the Nationals 8-1 in his outings, over which he’d put up a 2.23 ERA, with 15 walks, 91 Ks, and a .167/.234/.319 line against in 60 23 IP.

“I’ve seen better from him, I really have,” Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez told reporters after the win over the Fish.

“And he knows it, but you know what, he gave us six strong innings.”

Scherzer had gone at least six innings in 10 of 11 starts before taking on the Baltimore Orioles in last night’s series finale.

He took the mound in Oriole Park at Camden Yards for start No. 12 of 2018 leading all NL starters in strikeouts (108), K/9 (13.56), and wins (8). He was ranked second in WHIP (0.91), opponents’ AVG (.180), and opponents’ OBP (.244), and was ranked third in ERA (2.13), and opponents’ SLG (.333).

MLB: Washington Nationals at Baltimore Orioles Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Scherzer was facing an Orioles’ lineup that was right-hand heavy, with six of nine batters right-handed, and righties were just 17 for 105 (.162 AVG) with no home runs off him in 2018.

He struck out six of the first ten batters he faced on 45 pitches, and eight of 16 on 74, and he picked up K No. 9 in a 10-pitch, 1-2-3 sixth, after which he’d retired 13-straight Orioles.

Manny Machado’s one-out double to right in the seventh ended Scherzer’s streak of retired batters at 14, but he completed his seventh inning without a run coming across, stranding two after a two-out walk, which was his first of the outing, by striking Chris Davis out with a 1-2 change for 11 Ks on 101 pitches, and a 10-pitch, 1-2-3 eighth in which he picked up his 12th K, ended his outing.

Max Scherzer’s Line: 8.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 12 Ks, 111 P, 83 S, 5/2 GO/FO.

“He had a really good fastball tonight,” Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez told reporters after the Nationals’ 2-0 win.

“I should say a great fastball. 96-97, it was over the plate, and the slider was really, really sharp.”

Orioles’ skipper Buck Showalter was asked if Scherzer is really that difficult an opponent.

“Yes,” Showalter said succinctly. “He’s really good. You can make a case for him being as good as — I don’t look at it a whole lot, but is anybody having a better year than him as a starter in baseball?

“Maybe you all are a little more up to speed on it than I am, but he brings the whole package.”

“He’s one of the best pitchers in baseball. I can’t say enough about him,” Bryce Harper said, after he homered for the 18th time in 2018, providing the only run-support Scherzer would up needing. “He’s really special.”

What makes Scherzer so difficult to face? Showalter shared his thoughts.

“He doesn’t lose anything as the game goes on. I don’t think that anybody doubts that he physically could have pitched the ninth inning, but he’s — you don’t like that it’s against you, but that’s what top pitchers in the game do, you see their whole repertoire. This guy’s got changeup, plus breaking ball, and fastball in both — really four quadrants, he elevates it and it’s like he can kind of — he reads hitter’s swings well, he remembers at bats, what a guy did last time and you can see the adjustments made at bat to at bat.”

Scherzer said the big difference last night, after the less-than-stellar outing in Miami, was a mechanical adjustment he made.

“Changed my positioning on my hands, took my hands a little bit lower and away from my face a little bit more and I felt like that put me on line,” he explained, “... and I was really able to work the glove-side fastball tonight, and I felt like that really allowed me to get strikes, work ahead in the count, and let [Pedro Severino] sequence guys the way he wanted.”

“I was really working well with Sevy tonight,” Scherzer added.

“Did a good job of changing our sequencing throughout the lineup, first time, second time, third time through the lineup and just executed with pitches tonight.

“When I can throw all my pitches for strikes, that’s when I can work ahead in the count.”

Scherzer used the time between his last two starts to tweak his delivery and it paid off in the dominant outing against the Orioles.

“Just trying to feel myself out of the windup ... executing fastballs,” he said, “... that was something that the past couple starts I haven’t felt great about, of being able to execute fastballs where I wanted to, and that was kind of a point of emphasis the past couple days so that I had rhythm and the ability to work to both sides of the plate. I know how difficult that is for hitters, they talk about it all the time, so it’s one of those things that you have to pride yourself on.”

Scherzer threw 55 fastballs, 41 for strikes, and got 34 swings and 10 swinging strikes with the heater, which sat 96-98.

He mixed in the changeup (16 total, 12 for strikes, 10 swings, six swinging strikes), threw 26 sliders (21 for strikes, 18 swings, 11 misses), and threw six curveballs and eight cut fastballs according to Brooks Baseball.

That slider though...

“Yeah, like I said, I was in line, in line with my arm action, was able to be in the direction I wanted to,” Scherzer said, “so when I’m coming down the mound I was behind the ball and on top of it, and that’s when I feel really good on the mound and really able to execute pitches, and just go out there and just keep throwing up zeros.”