Nate Pearson and Max Scherzer had themselves an old-fashioned pitchers’ duel tonight in Nationals Park, where the Washington Nationals were the “away” team for the third of their four games with the Toronto Blue Jays in the nation’s capital this week.
Pearson, in his MLB debut, tossed five scoreless on 75 pitches, striking out five and allowing just two hits and two walks, with a high-90s fastball and biting slider that generated 8 of 14 swinging strikes and five of 13 called strikes on the night in an impressive outing for the 23-year-old, 2017 1st Round pick.
Scherzer ended up leaving the game after 112 pitches, with runners on first and third in the bottom of the eighth, but Daniel Hudson got an inning-ending 6-4-3 to keep it 0-0.
It went to extras, where the Nationals loaded the bases with back-to-back walks after they started with a runner on second, and a bases-loaded grounder by Adam Eaton plated the first run of the game, 1-0, before Asdrúbal Cabrera tripled to drive in three more, 4-0 final.
Scherzer 2.0: Max Scherzer gave up six hits and four earned runs in 5 1⁄3 innings in his 2020 debut, striking out 11 of the 26 batters he faced in what ended up a 4-1 loss to the New York Yankees. Two of those four runs came on a home run in the opening frame on Opening Day, but in his second start of the season, tonight in D.C., Scherzer worked around a leadoff walk in the opening frame, stranded a one-out single in the second, and a double and a walk in the third, before retiring the side in order in the fourth, completing four scoreless on just 62 pitches.
Max Scherzer, Wicked 87mph Slider. pic.twitter.com/oHgCHxEpfi— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 29, 2020
A 13-pitch, 1-2-3 fifth, in which he picked up two strikeouts (for eight from 18 batters faced) gave Scherzer seven straight outs after a two-out walk in the third, and 75 pitches total on the night in five scoreless.
Scherzer’s 13-pitch, 1-2-3 sixth left him with 10-straight Blue Jays set down, and nine Ks from 21 batters faced, with 88 pitches overall in six scoreless, and he was up to 13 batters retired, and 98 pitches after retiring the Jays in order in the seventh.
Scherzer returned to the mound in the eighth, and gave up a streak-breaking leadoff single by Joe Panik, whose pinch runner, Anthony Alford, stole second base in the next at bat.
Santiago Espinal K’d swinging for the first out of the frame, but an errant pick attempt at second moved the runner to third base with one out, and Derek Fisher walked to make it first and third with one down. That was it for Scherzer, after 112 pitches...
Max Scherzer’s Line: 7.1 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 10 Ks, 112 P, 70 S, 9/2 GO/FO.
Pearson’s Debut: In an interview with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies this morning, Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo talked about the club’s approach to facing Nate Pearson, No. 8 overall on MLB’s list of the top prospects for 2020, who was making his MLB debut, when there wasn’t much video to scout with and no history between his hitters and the 23-year-old, 2017 1st Round pick.
“We’ll do our work on him,” Rizzo said, “and see as much film on him as we can and go to battle at six o’clock and see if we can beat him.”
“He’s a hard-thrower,” Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez said in his pregame press conference this afternoon.
Nate Pearson, White Castle Special...plus two Swords. ⚔️⚔️ pic.twitter.com/OZLMHizjJ4— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 29, 2020
“He can touch 100, but he’s got three good pitches, so for me, we’ve got to get him in the strike zone. He’s a young pitcher, we’ve just got to get him down and get him in the strike zone.”
Pearson was in the high 90s from the start in his first big league outing, working around a one-out walk in the first, stranding two in the third, and another in the fourth, with just two hits allowed through four scoreless frames, which he completed on 59 pitches.
Pearson picked up two more strikeouts in a quick, 16-pitch, 1-2-3 fifth inning, giving him five Ks total from 19 batters faced, and 75 pitches overall on the night, and that was it for him in an impressive debut.
Nate Pearson, Nasty 84mph Slider...and Sword. ⚔️ pic.twitter.com/9zKqmIAOQD— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 29, 2020
Nate Pearson’s Line: 5.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 Ks, 75 P, 48 S, 5/2 GO/FO.
Away Game: Toronto said no to the Blue Jays and teams from around the U.S. flying into Canada during an ongoing pandemic, so while they scrambled to find a home, which is going to be in Buffalo eventually, they had to move things around early this season, and, so... Nationals Park was the Jays’ home tonight.
Davey Martinez was asked before the game what he thought was the weirdest part of the Nationals playing an away game in their home?
Would it be trying to keep Max Scherzer from running out to the mound for the first pitch of the game?
“You just took the words right out of my mouth,” Martinez joked with the reporters who asked, “... keeping Max in the dugout. It’s going to be strange watching the other team come out first in our home field.
“Wearing our gray uniforms. That’s going to be strange, even though today, like I said, we’re going to break out our blue tops, so that will kind of be nice.”
MMMmmm blue tops. Would they continue to be lucky? Would the Nationals make it eight straight road wins going back to last October and the NLDS?
BULLPEN ACTION: Rafael Dolis took over for Toronto in the top of the sixth, and retired the Nationals in order.
Starlin Castro walked and Carter Kieboom lined a single to center with one down and Jays’ righty Sam Gaviglio on in the bottom of the seventh inning, but Andrew Stevenson lined out sharply to left for out No. 2.
Jordan Romano came on to face Victor Robles with two on and two out and got the Nats’ outfielder swinging, leaving the Nationals 0 for 8 with six left on base through 6 1/2, 0-0.
Romano retired the Nationals in order in the top of the eighth as well.
Daniel Hudson took over for Max Scherzer with runners on the corners and one out (in a 0-0 game), got up 0-2 on Teoscar Hernández and got a 6-4-3, inning-ending DP on a sharp grounder to short that Trea Turner dove for before backhanding the ball to second base so Starlin Castro could complete the play. Still 0-0.
Anthony Bass tossed a 1-2-3 top of the ninth for the Jays to keep it 0-0.
Hudson returned to the mound in the bottom of the ninth and retired the Blue Jays in order to send it to extras... where a runner starts on second in this 60-game season.
Emilio Bonifacio was the Nationals’ first runner on second in extras. Shun Yamaguchi came on for the Jays, and walked Carter Kieboom, in a nine-pitch battle. Andrew Stevenson took the second straight walk to load the bases, but Victor Robles K’d swinging for the first out.
Trea Turners stepped in next and worked the count full but K’d for out No. 2, but Adam Eaton sent a chopper toward second that brought in a run when Stevenson beat Jays’ second baseman Cavan Biggio to the bag, 1-0. Asdrúbal Cabrera tripled by first in the following at bat, 4-0. Starting with a runner on second is still stupid though.
Tanner Rainey got the bottom of the tenth with a four-run lead and struck out three batters, but a wild pitch on strike three on the third K got away from Kurt Suzuki and Brandon Drury, the hitter, beat the catcher’s throw to first. So, with runners on the corners, Santiago Espinal stepped up and worked the count full before popping out to center to end it.
Ballgame. Final Score: 4-0 Nationals.
Nationals now 2-4