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Before the Nationals blew it in the 9th, Max Scherzer dominated the Cubs...

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Max Scherzer made a 1-0 lead hold up through seven, and the Nationals even added insurance runs in the ninth, but it wasn’t enough.

Washington Nationals v Chicago Cubs Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images

Max Scherzer was winless in a five-start stretch between June 10th and July 2nd, in spite of the fact that he posted a 2.73 ERA and a .178/.265/.322 line against in 33 innings pitched in those outings. He received just seven runs of support, total in those five games.

Going into tonight’s series finale with the Chicago Cubs, the Washington Nationals’ ace was unbeaten in six starts, going (5-0) with the Nats 6-1 in those outings, over which they put up 49 runs and he posted a 2.63 ERA and a .207/.256/.393 in 41 IP.

The one loss for the Nationals over that stretch came the last time out, when Scherzer gave up just one run over seven innings against the Atlanta Braves in Nationals Park, receiving no decision in what ended up a 3-1 loss.

Scherzer talked after that outing about the difficulty of going up against a divisional rival, and facing the same hitters in multiple starts.

“Any time I’m facing this lineup, they know me so well, they grind, they foul so many pitches off, they really understand what I’m trying to do,” the back-to-back, defending NL Cy Young winner said.

Sunday night in Wrigley Field, Scherzer was taking on the Cubs for the first time this season and he piled up Ks early, striking out 7 of 11 batters on 42 pitches over three scoreless.

A 15-pitch, 1-2-3 4th pushed Scherzer up to 57 pitches (and seven straight Cubs set down), and he retired the side in order in an 11-pitch fifth, and added two Ks in a 17-pitch sixth that left him at nine Ks total and 85 pitches overall, with 10 straight Cubs’ batters set down.

Albert Almora, Jr. snapped Scherzer’s streak of retired batters at 12 in a row with a two-out double in the top of the seventh, and an intentional walk, after Scherzer fell behind 3-0 on Kyle Schwarber set the Cubbies up with an RBI opportunity, but a swinging K from Willson Contreras, on Scherzer’s 106th pitch, kept it a 1-0 game in the Nationals’ favor.

Max Scherzer’s Line: 7.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 11 Ks, 106 P, 71 S, 5/1 GO/FO.

It was all for naught in the end, however, and in spite of the fact that the Nationals actually added two insurance runs in the top of the ninth. Koda Glover tossed a scoreless eighth to keep it close and the Nationals put two up on former Nats’ reliever Brandon Kintzler, but a walk-off grand slam off Ryan Madson by David Bote gave the Cubs a 4-3 victory.

Scherzer received no decision, while Cubs’ starter Cole Hamels, who retired the last 18 he faced after a walk, single, and sac fly in the second led to a run, was spared a loss by the late-game heroics.

“Sometimes this happens. It’s about how you respond to this,” Scherzer told reporters, as quoted by MLB.com’s Jamal Collier after the game.

“We’ve got an important series beginning in St. Louis tomorrow. We’ve got to come ready to play. We really need a win tomorrow to get momentum back on our side, cause tonight sucks. There’s no other way to say it. We just didn’t get the job done. And we’ve got to find a way to play really good baseball again tomorrow.”

“I mean, it’s a gut punch,” Scherzer added. “It’s a gut punch.” The series opener with the Cardinals starts at 8:10 PM EDT tonight in Busch Stadium.