Max Scherzer retired 11 of the last 12 batters he faced in the first of two with the Tampa Bay Rays this week in the nation’s capital, and the Washington Nationals’ ace completed a total of seven scoreless innings on 104 pitches in what ended up a 6-1 win for the home team, in which he struck out eight batters while walking only one.
Scherzer vs the Rays: Max Scherzer had a six-start unbeaten streak, which stretched back to his 2020 debut snapped last time out. Scherzer had a 3.38 ERA, nine walks, 44 Ks, and a .254/.306/.393 line against in 32 IP over that stretch before the 36-year-old, three-time Cy Young award-winner took the loss in a 3-0 game with the Phillies in Citizens Bank Park.
Both Scherzer and his manager, Davey Martinez, talked about Scherzer’s walk rate (of 3.32 BB/9) causing trouble this season after he issued three free passes to Philly hitters.
“That’s something that we don’t know what’s going on,” Martinez said.
Max Scherzer, Overpowering 97mph Fastball. pic.twitter.com/tlT4I5U6NM— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 7, 2020
“But I think he gets those guys in two-strike counts or 3-1 counts, and just I think he needs to be more aggressive in the zone because the stuff is electric.”
Scherzer said he was determined to work on it as well, and avoid nibbling when he could put hitters away.
This time out, there was traffic on the bases early with two Rays’ hitters reaching in each of the first two innings, and one in the third, all of whom were stranded by the Nationals’ ace.
Scherzer was more efficient and effective in innings 3-6, after throwing 40 pitches over his first two innings on the mound. He needed just 50 over the next four, retiring 12 of 14 Rays’ hitters, including eight in a row after giving up a one-out single in the fourth.
Scherzer got up to 10 in a row retired before Kevan Smith hit a two-out double to right field in the top of the seventh, but he stranded Smith when he got Austin Meadows swinging to end a 14-pitch frame with his eighth K on his 104th pitch.
Max Scherzer’s Line: 7.0 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 Ks, 104 P, 70 S, 3/5 GO/FO.
Morton vs the Nats: Charlie Morton missed time between August 9th and September 2nd with inflammation in his right (throwing) shoulder, but the veteran starter returned to the Rays’ rotation last week in New York, tossing two scoreless against the Yankees in a 5-2 win in which he walked two and struck out four.
In his second start back off the injured list, the veteran right-hander retired the Nationals in order in the top of the first, but walked Josh Harrison with one down in the second, and the speedy infielder took third on an Eric Thames’ single, then scored on a grounder to short off Carter Kieboom’s bat, with Kieboom hustling to first to avoid a double play, 1-0.
Victor Robles doubled to the left-center gap to start the Nationals’ half of the third, moved to third base on a fly to right by Adam Eaton, and scored on an RBI single to left off of Trea Turner’s bat, 2-0. Turner raced around the bases on a Kurt Suzuki double to left in the next at bat, and it was 3-0 Nats.
Charlie Morton’s Line: 5.0 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 3 Ks, 57 P, 45 S, 6/3 GO/FO.
García Scratched: Davey Martinez told reporters on Sunday afternoon, after the finale with the Braves in Atlanta, that rookie infielder Luis García had a bruise on the bottom of his heel, which took him out of the game, but as of early this afternoon his manager thought García would be able to go in tonight’s game.
He was penciled in the lineup when it was initially sent out.
“He’s feeling better. He’s going to go out and run around a little bit. So we’ll see how he’s feeling. But as of right now he’s penciled in the lineup,” Martinez said.
“If things change, obviously we’ll let you guys know, but he said he feels a lot better.”
Things changed, apparently, because the 22-year-old infielder was scratched from the new lineup when it was released a half an hour before the first pitch.
BULLPEN ACTION: Trevor Richards replaced Charlie Morton in the bottom of the sixth.
Brock Holt doubled to start the Nats’ sixth, took third on an opposite field single by Kurt Suzuki, and scored on Josh Harrison’s oppo liner to right, 4-0.
Carter Kieboom walked with one down, loading the bases in front of Michael A. Taylor, who hit an opposite field double to right to bring in two more, 6-0.
Richards returned to the mound in the bottom of the seventh and worked around back-to-back, one-out singles for a scoreless frame.
Tanner Rainey took over on the mound for the Nationals in the seventh, and gave up a home run to left by Randy Arozarena on a 98 MPH 1-2 fastball, 6-1 Nats.
Richards tossed a scoreless bottom of the eighth.
Will Harris came on in the top of the ninth inning and gave up a two-out double and back-to-back walks, loading the bases and forcing manager Davey Martinez to go to the pen for closer Daniel Hudson, who struck Arozarena out to end it.
Final Score: 6-1 Nationals
Nationals now 15-25