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Max Scherzer dominates St. Louis Cardinals in Washington Nationals’ 3-1 win in NLCS Game 2...

Max Scherzer held the Cardinals hitless through six innings in the Nationals’ 3-1 win in Game 2 of the NLCS.

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League Championship Series - Washington Nationals v St Louis Cardinals - Game Two Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

With the season on line in Game 4 of the NLDS with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Max Scherzer gave the Washington Nationals seven strong innings, holding LA’s hitters to one run on four hits, walking three, and striking out seven in a 109-pitch effort in the Nats’ 6-1 win.

Scherzer, 35, talked after the outing about believing that something special was going on in the nation’s capital.

“We just believe that we got some mojo and that we can win,” Scherzer told reporters. “We just believe in this clubhouse, what we have here, what we built here, and we have talked about it, that we just have [that] it factor and we just know we got 25 guys that are going to lay it on the line every single time for each other and that’s hard to replicate.”

Scherzer was going up against the St. Louis Cardinals for the third time this season in Game 2 of the NLCS, after facing them back in May (7.0 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 8 Ks), and in September (6.2 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 0 BB, 11 Ks), though he said the familiarity with the Cards’ hitters wasn’t too big of a deal either way.

“You take a look at it, you know what’s going on, it’s fresh in my mind of what pitches they can hit,” the three-time Cy Young award-winner said. “And watching that series of how they handled the bat and how to navigate their lineup, it’s going to be a tough fight, I know that.

“At the same time,” he added, “this is the postseason, this is the NLCS, you can almost, in some regards, almost throw it out the window because everybody’s playing at a higher level. I can sit here and say that, like, I knew the Brewers’ lineup but the Brewers came out with a whole different approach and like that was a completely different team. So there’s something to it but there’s not a lot to it.”

Cardinals’ manager Mike Shildt, whose team got shut out, 2-0, in Game 1, said he remained confident in his lineup, even going up against Scherzer.

“We like our lineup and this lineup is capable and this is a similar lineup that beat Scherzer a couple weeks ago. So we’ll ride with it.”

Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez was asked if some friendly competition in the rotation might provide extra motivation for Scherzer, after Aníbal Sánchez tossed 7 23 scoreless against the Cards last night in Busch Stadium, taking a no-hitter into the eighth.

“He’s very competitive,” Martinez said before the start of Game 2 on Saturday.

“I just hope he comes out and pitches like Max Scherzer and doesn’t try to do too much. But I know he’s excited and I know he was excited yesterday watching Aníbal.

“So I just want him to go out there and compete. But these guys get it. The big reason why we are here is because our four starters, they pitched well all year for us.”

Scherzer was dominant on the mound in St. Louis, holding the Cardinals hitless through six before giving up a leadoff single to left by Paul Goldschmidt, but one out later he got a 6-4-3 DP out of Yadier Molina to end his seventh scoreless frame at 101 pitches overall with 11 Ks from 23 batters faced.

Scherzer was done at that point, and he finished the outing with 19 swinging strikes overall, nine with his four-seamer, and five each with his changeup and slider, and 18 called strikes, seven on his four-seam fastball, six with his curve, three with his slider and one each on his cutter and changeup.

Max Scherzer’s Line: 7.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 11 Ks, 101 P, 65 S, 6/1 GO/FO.

Sean Doolittle, Patrick Corbin, and Daniel Hudson followed Scherzer on the mound and the Nationals took the second game of the series, 3-1, to go up 2-0 in their best-of-seven series.

Asked after the game if the potential of a no-hitter ever crossed his mind, Scherzer said the only thing on his mind was winning the game.

“Just throwing up zeros,” he said. “It’s a 1-0 game, mistakes are, it’s razor thin out there, you can’t give -- I’m really thinking don’t give up a solo shot. Just trying to work with [Kurt Suzuki] and just navigate through this lineup.

“Just stay in the moment, stay with Zuk and just keep your mind what we need to do. And he did a great job of sequencing them and we did a good job of just executing pitches.”

Once he got through seven innings, Scherzer said, he was pretty much done.

“The conversation was not as hard as I expected,” Martinez said. “He was, he said he was pretty much at his limit and I figured that at about a hundred pitches or so he would be good and, you know, if we get to the 7th and we would have Huddie and Doo. By conversation today, I knew that we need to get an out from Corbin or two, he was available.

“My arm was kind of gassed coming into today,” Scherzer explained.

“I knew I didn’t have like 120 pitches, knew I only had really a hundred. My arm actually felt better around the 4th inning once it kind of loosened up and freed up. And once I got to that hundred pitch count, the only thing that was going to keep me in the game was that I found my arm slot, but with the lefties coming up, we had Doolittle, my spot in the order was coming up and a chance to get out of there with a hundred pitches and kind of recover at this point in time, that’s why it all made sense to go to Doolittle in that situation.”

Cardinals’ skipper Mike Shildt, whose team has been held to a run on four hits in the first two games of the NLCS, talked afterwards about what his club was up against.

“He was commanding his pitches,” Shildt said. “And I hesitate to say that I talked to [Bench Coach Oliver Marmol] about it on the bench a little bit because we will not make excuses for ourselves. I won’t ever make excuses for our guys. But you also have to be realistic about what we were dealing with today. We were dealing with a guy that had really good command of his pitches, throwing mid-90s with late movement, really dirty sliders, we know, and not the most ideal conditions to go up there and swing the bat. Again, that’s just realistic. We had to figure a way ... we got to figure out a way to be better, that’s the bottom line. But I can’t sit there and ignore the fact that their guy’s pretty darn elite, and you saw some elite pitching today. You saw playoff baseball. We haven’t been able to figure out a way to get some runs, but you’re seeing playoff baseball and how it looks. That’s usually tough pitching, timely hitting, good defense, and some other things. And we’re doing everything, just not being able to scratch those runs across.”

“He was dynamite,” Martinez said of Scherzer. “I mean his stuff was good, his changeup was really good today, utilized it well. Fastball was good. He was locating his fastball early in the count, so he was good.”