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Washington Nationals 7-1 over Pittsburgh Pirates: Max Scherzer returns; Nats take 3 of 4 in PNC

Washington Nationals’ ace Max Scherzer returned to the mound tonight, with a four-inning outing, and the Nats beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-1 for the 3rd win in 4 in PNC Park.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Max Scherzer threw just 71 pitches over four innings, giving up one run on a home run to right by Pittsburgh Pirates’ second baseman Adam Frazier, but the Washington Nationals’ ace was done after four in his first start since July 25th, leaving the game with a 2-1 lead.

Wander Suero and Hunter Strickland kept the one-run lead in tact through seven, and the Nationals added to their lead with a two-run homer by Howie Kendrick and RBI singles by Victor Robles and Asdrúbal Cabrera in the top of the eighth, 6-1, and a solo homer to left field by Anthony Rendon in the ninth, 7-1 final.

Scherzer vs the Pirates: With just one start in the Nationals’ rotation since July 6th, the Nats’ brass was clear coming into Max Scherzer’s return to the mound that he wouldn’t be going out and throwing his usual 110-15 pitches right out of the gate now that he’s back off the IL.

“We’re going to let him do his thing, but really keep an eye on if he has any high-leverage [situations], a lot of pitches in an inning -- all that stuff,” manager Davey Martinez said in a pregame conversation with reporters, as quoted by’s Jack Crouse.

Scherzer retired the Pirates in order in a 19-pitch bottom of the first in his first inning back, and worked his way out of a first-and-third, one-out jam in a scoreless, 16-pitch second.

An 0-1 pitch to Adam Frazier with one out in the third went out to right for a solo shot that got the home team on the board, down 2-1 to the Nationals at that point.

Scherzer gave up a two-out single and walk after the home run, but stranded both runners in a 25-pitch third, and then retired the side in order in an 11-pitch fourth that left him at 71 pitches overall. That was it for Max...

Max Scherzer’s Line: 4.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 Ks, 1 HR, 71 P, 48 S, 4/4 GO/FO.

Brault vs the Nationals: Pirates’ right-hander Steven Brault took the mound in the finale of the four-game set with the Nationals in PNC Park winless in his last six starts (0-1), with his club 1-5 in those outings, over which the 27-year-old, four-year veteran had a respectable 3.52 ERA, 13 walks, 30 Ks, and a .212/.299/.345 line against in 30 23 IP.

Brault fell behind early in the fourth of four with the Nationals, however, giving up a leadoff double to left field by Trea Turner, who scored on a bunt by Adam Eaton in the next at bat, 1-0, when Pirates’ first baseman Josh Bell missed the throw to first base from Colin Moran and had it roll out into short right.

Anthony Rendon doubled to center in the at bat that followed, sending Eaton around to third base, and he scored one out later on a groundout to third by Howie Kendrick, 2-0 Nationals early.

Brault worked his way out of a bases-loaded, two-out jam in a 25-pitch second, which left him at 44 pitches total after two, and stranded a one-out double by Howie Kendrick in the third.

After working around a Max Scherzer single in the fourth, and retiring the side in order in the fifth, Brault came out for the sixth at 86 pitches, and threw a 12-pitch, 1-2-3 frame that left him at 98 total.

Steven Brault’s Line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 Ks, 98 P, 63 S, 8/1 GO/FO.

Turn-On: Trea Turner started the night with a career-high 28-game on-base streak going, over which the 26-year-old shortstop was 40 for 120 (.333/.400/.533) with four doubles, one triple, six home runs, and 13 walks in 135 plate appearances, and he wasted no time extending it to a new career-high 29-game on-base streak with a leadoff double off left-hander Steven Brault, and he scored on a misplay by the Pirates on an Adam Eaton bunt, making it 1-0 two batters in.

BULLPEN ACTION: Wander Suero took over for Max Scherzer in the bottom of the fifth, with the Nationals ahead, 2-1, and worked around a two-out single in a 19-pitch frame.

Hunter Strickland tossed a quick, seven-pitch, 1-2-3 sixth to keep the Nationals up by a run, 2-1.

Richard Rodríguez took over for the Pirates in the top of the seventh, and struck out two in a 1-2-3 frame.

Strickland returned to the mound in the bottom of the seventh inning and gave up a leadoff single by Pirates’ shortstop Kevin Newman, who stole second one out later, and moved over to third on a fly to center, but was stranded there. Still 2-1 Nats.

Chris Stratton gave up a one-out walk to Juan Soto and a two-run home run to left by Howie Kendrick, who crushed a 1-1 fastball from the Pirates’ right-hander and put the Nationals up, 4-1. No. 14 for Kendrick.

Gerardo Parra doubled with two down in the eighth, and scored on an RBI single by Victor Robles, 5-1. Robles scored on a single to left by Asdrúbal Cabrera, 6-1.

Fernando Rodney retired the Pirates in order in a 17-pitch bottom of the eighth.

Anthony Rendon hit his 28th of 2019 into the second deck in left off Stratton in the top of the ninth, 7-1.

A walk by Juan Soto and singles by Howie Kendrick and Kurt Suzuki loaded the bases with one out, but Matt Adams K’d swinging and Victor Robles popped out to end the inning.

Javy Guerra got the ball in the ninth and worked around a two-out infield single to end it, 7-1. Ballgame. On to Wrigley...

Nationals now 70-57