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Max Scherzer starts in sort-of must-win matchup with Braves in Nationals Park...

Will Max Scherzer lead the Nationals to a win over the Braves after a disapppointing start to the second half of the 2018 campaign on Friday night.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Washington Nationals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Back-to-back defending NY Cy Young winner Max Scherzer put together an eleven-start unbeaten streak in the first half of the 2018 campaign, over which the 33-year-old right-hander went (9-0) with a stingy 2.00 ERA, 16 walks (1.88 BB/9), 116 Ks (13.62 K/9), and a .159/.217/.293 line against over 76 23 innings.

Scherzer also had a five-outing winless streak in the first half, over which he received just seven runs of support, going (0-4), with a 2.73 ERA, 11 walks (3.00 BB/9), 41 Ks (11.81 K/9), and a .178/.265/.322 line against in 33 innings.

How did he sum up his own work in the first 20 starts of the season?

“Pretty good,” Scherzer said after he gave up five hits and three runs over seven innings in New York last week.

“I’ve been pretty consistent giving the team a chance to win,” he added, “going out there and just pitching deep into ballgames. When you can do that that really allows the rest of the team to get in place and that’s what I pride myself on, just making sure that I’m going out there and being efficient, pitching deep into ballgames, working with the catchers well and playing just good overall baseball, and we’ve won a few ballgames when I’ve been on the mound, and regardless of my record, it’s the team wins that’s what I’m focused on and we’ve been winning ballgames and that’s what’s important.”

MLB: All Star Game Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Scherzer entered the All-Star Break (12-5) with the Nationals 14-6 in his outings.

“Max is Max,” Davey Martinez said after their first half of a season of working together.

“He wants to be the best at everything. Pitching, hitting, bunting, you name it, he tells me he can play the outfield if need be, steal a base if need be, I mean, but that’s what you get. He’s very intense about everything he does. I’ve said this before, everybody sees him every five days, I see him every day and he works just as hard the four days in-between starts as he does when he pitches every five days.”

“It’s amazing,” Nats’ third baseman Anthony Rendon told reporters in New York. “He comes out here every five days and grinds and even between his five days he gets his workouts in. He runs, he does everything I guess a pitcher is supposed to, and his work ethic shows on the field. He’s a grinder. I love it.”

“He’s one of the best in baseball if not the best,” Bryce Harper said.

“Past couple years as well, Cy Young out there doing his thing. If there’s a guy that I want out there every fifth day it’s either Max Scherzer or Jacob deGrom.

“I’ll take either one of those two any day of the week.”

Scherzer finished the first half tied for the NL lead in wins (12), leading the league in innings pitched (132 23), strikeouts (182), and K/9 (12.16), with the third-lowest ERA (2.41), third-lowest FIP (2.81), third-highest fWAR (4.1), lowest batting average against (.179), the lowest WHIP (0.90), third-lowest BABIP-against (.249), and the second-highest left-on-base percentage (83.2%) amongst qualified NL starters.

After making his sixth straight All-Star appearance this past Tuesday, Scherzer talked about the experience of participating in the Midsummer Classic and getting to learn what he can from other pitchers around the league. The highlight for Scherzer?

“When you’re here it’s being in this clubhouse,” he said. “Being in the clubhouse, talking to the veterans, talking to guys who have been here. Getting to know everybody, get the personalities, and you can actually learn a lot from the other players in the league.

“They’re watching you, they’re watching your team, and you get in these conversations and it’s great, you’re talking about everybody, and you find little things in the game that make them successful and what made you successful and see if you can make it better.”

Once the All-Star Game was over, however, Scherzer said he had two days to rest and then it was right back to work.

“We’ve got a big series against Atlanta on Friday, so I guess I can’t relax too much,” Scherzer said.

The first game of the so-called second half didn’t go as the Nationals hoped it would. They lost an 8-5 decision to the Braves, and Scherzer and starter Stephen Strasburg got into it after Strasburg struggled on the mound in his return from the Disabled List.

How it started and what was said is unclear, but Scherzer, who never needs additional motivation when it’s his turn to start, might have some when he takes the mound this afternoon.