Max Scherzer had an eight-start unbeaten streak snapped last time out, when he gave up two runs over seven innings in a 2-0 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies in Nationals Park.
In his last nine starts, however, Washington’s back-to-back-defending NL Cy Young winner was (6-1) after that loss, with a 2.07 ERA and a .189/.245/.336 line against in 61 IP.
Both of the runs Scherzer gave up in that outing against the Phillies came on a 1-0 cutter to Odubel Herrera that he left out over the plate in his final inning of work in the seventh, after he’d issued a walk to Maikel Franco in the previous at bat.
“Wanted to get that pitch up and in,” Scherzer said. “That’s where I have success with that and it just backed up on me and was out over the plate and he put a great swing on it.
“That was the one pitch that beat me, but I was kind of inconsistent all day.”
Herrera got Scherzer again in the bottom of the fourth on Tuesday night in Citizens Bank Park, on a 2-2 fastball inside he sent out to right for a one-out solo shot that started the scoring in another matchup between the Nats’ ace and the Phillies’ Cy Young candidate, righty Aaron Nola.
Nola tossed eight scoreless against the Nats in D.C., and he started the second consecutive outing against Philly’s NL East rivals with five scoreless innings, making a 1-0 lead hold up.
Scott Kingery reached on a weak grounder in the first at bat of the bottom of the fifth, and he scored when Jorge Alfaro hit a first-pitch slider from Scherzer out to center field for a two-run blast and a 3-0 lead.
Scherzer was up to 99 pitches total after five innings, and done for the night at that point in what was his shortest start since he went just five innings on April 4th, in his second start of 2018.
Max Scherzer’s Line: 5.0 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 5 Ks, 2 HRs, 99 P, 68 S, 3/5 GO/FO.
It stayed 3-0 until the top of the seventh, when the Nationals finally pushed two runs (one of them earned) across against Nola, and a three-run top of the ninth inning put the visitors up 5-3 in what ended up a 5-4 win for Washington.
Neither Scherzer or Nola figured in the decision, and the Nationals’ ace wasn’t particularly sharp.
“He struggled,” Davey Martinez told reporters after the game.
“He threw a lot of pitches early. I didn’t want him throwing too many pitches, fell behind 3-0, we had a chance to lead off with a pinch hitter [in the sixth], but he gives us everything he’s got every day, and that’s what I expect from him.”
“They did a heck of a job of fouling a lot of pitches off and grinding AB’s,” Scherzer told reporters, as quoted by MASN’s Byron Kerr.
“When you think about throwing five innings and 100 pitches, you think about spraying it and walking guys, everything. But I didn’t walk anybody, they just kept battling me and kept battling me and kept fouling pitches off and grinding ABs out. Sometimes you just got to tip your hat.”
Trailing by one after eight, the ninth started with a Bryce Harper walk and a home run by Anthony Rendon which officially got Scherzer off the hook.
Ryan Zimmerman doubled for the third time on the night one out later, stole third base, and scored on a throwing error by Phillies’ catcher Jorge Alfaro on the play.
It ended up being the winning run when the home team rallied in the bottom of the inning, only to have pinch running pitcher Vince Velasquez called out for leaving second base too soon on a fly to center field off Alfaro’s bat after he’d taken over on the basepaths for Wilson Ramos, who’d doubled in the Phillies’ fourth run. It was that kind of game.
“It was weird,” Martinez acknowledged. “I kept telling the boys, ‘Hey, we’ve got to keep it right here. Keep it right here. We’ll see what happens.’ Just keep battling, keep grinding, and they did. Zim, heads up play stealing third base right there. We told him you probably can, but he took off and it was unbelievable heads up.”
“These guys fight, man,” the first-year skipper said.
“They never quit, and they keep pounding and they keep grinding and it was a big win for us.”