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Max Scherzer faces Cardinals again; strikes out 7 of 14 batters in 3rd start of spring...

Max Scherzer faced the Cardinals for the third time in three starts this spring, and dominated again...

MLB: Washington Nationals at St. Louis Cardinals Mary Holt-USA TODAY Sports

“Hopefully we get him up to about 60 pitches, and we’ll go from there. If we can get him through that fourth inning I think that will be good,” Davey Martinez said early on Monday morning, in advance of Max Scherzer’s third start of the spring.

Scherzer, 36, tossed 38 pitches in his first outing of this spring, then the 13-year veteran got up to 42 pitches (33 strikes) in three scoreless and hitless innings of work in his second start in Grapefruit League action.

He faced the St. Louis Cardinals in both of those appearances, and he was going up against the Cards again on Monday afternoon.

After striking out five of the nine batters he faced in the second outing, the three-time Cy Young winner talked about judging his stuff based on the swings he’s getting in his early-spring appearances.

“You just try to watch what’s happening,” Scherzer said, “... and know that you’re going to face these guys during the season, that as much as we want to look at and dissect every little thing, it’s practice. We’re just all getting ready to get going. You look at the things that you did well, and that’s great, and the things that you don’t do well at, and the things that you think you’re making mistakes on, that gives you something to work on going into the next outing.”

Facing the Cards for the third time this spring, Scherzer retired 9 of the first 10 batters he went up against, striking out four as he completed three scoreless on 42 pitches.

He returned to the mound in the fourth and added three more strikeouts around a one-out single for seven Ks total from 14 batters faced, and the 16-pitch frame left him at 58 in four innings of work.

When he spoke on a Zoom call after start No. 3, Scherzer was asked if this is right where he wants to be at this point in Spring Training, pounding the zone, piling up Ks, and getting all the swinging strikes that he is from opposing hitters.

“It’s kind of where you want to be and then obviously there’s still more gears, there’s still more levels of pitching beyond just pound the zone,” Scherzer said.

“I felt like I made the adjustment from last start,” he added. “I felt like I was executing the changeup better today and staying behind it.

“Did a good job with Alex [Avila] today, pitching with five pitches, and just kind of throwing some sequences in there, and pound the zone.

“I go in there every start trying to pound the zone, work ahead in the count, I’m not out there to throw balls. I’m out there to throw strikes, especially in spring.

“So, you want to get some contact, you want to see how their swings are, so the only way to do that is to throw in the zone.”

The next step for the right-hander?

“For me it’s just consistency now,” Martinez said after the game. “Today he pumped a lot of strikes. His next outing we’ll get him past that five innings, maybe get him up to 70 pitches, and see how consistent he goes as he builds up all those pitches. The other thing is too for Max is getting him in high-leverage situations. When you saw the guy on second base today, he really stepped it up quite a bit, so I’m looking at all that stuff and watching him and he just looks good, he really does.”

While facing the Cardinals in each of his three initial outings this spring isn’t ideal, Scherzer said he wasn’t too concerned about it either.

“That’s just something you’ve just got to deal with,” he said. “We’re going to see these guys early in April, so get familiar with them right now.

“I haven’t seen any other team. I’ve seen the Cardinals three times now, so it’s not as big of a difference when you’re talking about coming from two innings, three innings, four innings, as if you were saying four innings, five innings. Then you’re getting more ABs against the same hitter. So, it’s probably less pronounced early in spring.”

If it was a divisional rival he’ll see often in the regular season though, he said he might try to do something different.

“If it was probably the Mets, I’d probably feel differently. But the fact that the Cardinals are in the Central and that’s it’s early in Spring,” makes it less of an issue.

“I think these guys — four ABs, I think we’re talking about something different. I’ve only got about four ABs against them, that’s fine.”