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Max Scherzer takes another step, continues to build strength in Nationals’ 8-4 win over Orioles

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Max Scherzer threw 89 pitches in 4 1⁄3 IP as he continues to work his way back from the two IL stints which limited him coming out of the All-Star Break.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Washington Nationals Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Max Scherzer returned to the Washington Nationals’ rotation last week in Pittsburgh with four innings of work on the mound in which he threw 71 pitches, but that was it in a short outing for the 35-year-old right-hander who hadn’t thrown in a big league game since the 25th of July as he dealt with scapulothoracic bursitis and then a mild rhomboid strain.

“He was a little gassed,” manager Davey Martinez said, “which we figured he would be, but his intensity was like always, and he got through it.”

The key, however, was how Scherzer recovered, since the issues he’d been dealing with that led to two stints on the Injured List after the All-Star Break came after his outings.

“I’m assuming he’s going to be sore,” Martinez added, “... because he pitched, but we just want that typical soreness that he always gets, and if he has that then we’re good to go.”

“I feel pretty good post-start,” Scherzer told reporters in PNC Park, “but like I said with this process of trying to learn what’s going on here, it’s the recovery, so it’s more about tomorrow than it is today.”

GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies early on Wednesday, before the second start for Scherzer off the IL, that all went well after the previous outing.

“Just normal soreness that a pitcher has after — had nothing to do with the injury,” Rizzo said.

As for how, if at all, Scherzer would be limited in his second turn in the rotation, Rizzo said they would loosen the reins a little bit this time out.

“I think we’ll curtail him a little bit,” he explained, “obviously a little looser on the reins than before, but yeah, I don’t see him going 115 or anything like that. Obviously the eye test will determine a lot and how Max feels and he communicates with the staff. We’ll control him a little bit, but he’s certainly feeling better and we’ll extend him a little bit more than we did last time.”

Scherzer tossed two scoreless to start, on 28 pitches, as the Nationals jumped out to a 5-0 lead over the Baltimore Orioles, but a 26-pitch third, in which he gave up a two-out single, RBI double, and walk, left him at 54 pitches overall, with a 5-1 lead, and he came back out with an 18-pitch fourth.

Chance Sisco hit a full-count fastball out to right-center for a solo shot to lead off the fifth, 5-2, and back-to-back, one-out, infield singles pushed Scherzer up to 89 pitches, and that was it for the right-hander...

Max Scherzer’s Line: 4.1 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 8 Ks, 89 P, 58 S, 3/0 GO/FO.

Scherzer’s eight Ks left him at 200 total on the season, reaching that plateau for the 8th consecutive season. His fastball sat 94-96 MPH, and he got 11 called strikes with his four-seamer.

“He was good,” Martinez told reporters after what ended up an 8-4 win over the O’s.

“Obviously we had a pitch count on him, but typical Max, he gave us what he had. I thought towards the end he was getting a little tired, but that’s part of just building him back up.”

“We were focused about making it through kind of five innings, trying to get up for the fifth inning tonight and recover, and see where I’m at,” Scherzer said, “... and hopefully if I can recover well, hopefully next time out, then that’s when we can start turning up the intensity on all the pitches. And so tonight was a good outing to be able to go back out there and get the reps in, get the pitch count up, so feel good about what happened tonight.”

Scherzer said after the start against the Pirates that he wasn’t throwing everything at high intensity, and he told reporters tonight that he doesn’t really have any issues with holding back a bit, and thinks that it might actually help him in the long-run.

“I know what’s at stake,” Scherzer explained.

“I know I need to get my back right, and learning how to pitch a little throttled down, this might make me a better pitcher later, really figuring out how to get guys out with location instead of having the ability to just rear back and just try to blow somebody away, I mean that works, don’t get me wrong, but when I have to hit spots and really locate offspeed pitches the way I want to, it forces me to be a little bit better.”

He did manage to strike out eight of the 20 batters he faced, even throttled down, but the three-time Cy Young award winning said there signs he’s not quite there yet.

“The pitch count was up given that I was getting through 4 13, so to me that also tells me that I’m not able to just put away guys whenever I want, the way I’m capable of, so that will come when I can turn up the throttle a little bit, and so hopefully I can recover and be able to do that.”

His manager said it was fair to say that Scherzer’s basically at the same place he’d normally be towards the end of a Spring Training build-up.

“You could say that. And then like I said, we have to see how he recovers tomorrow, and go from there, but yeah, that’s a good assessment.”

“Moving forward we need Max to be Max,” Martinez added, “and he understands that.”

“With that being said, we’re at a pivotal point with him right now, and we’ve got to be really careful, and we’ve got to listen to doctors, we’ve got listen to him, we’ve got to listen to trainers. I’ve got to be smart about, you could look at him and say, ‘Hey, you know what, he’s okay, he’s good,’ but we have to stick to the plan right now.”