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Washington Nationals’ Max Scherzer escapes early jam vs St. Louis Cardinals, gets through six scoreless...

Max Scherzer looked like he was in trouble early, but he got out of a first inning jam and started a string of 12-straight outs in the second...

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Max Scherzer struggled in his 2021 debut (giving up five hits and four runs, all on homers), but the 36-year-old right-hander bounced back the second and third times out, giving up just five hits, three walks, and one run in 13 innings pitched, over which he’d walked three and struck out 15.

Going up against the Arizona Diamondbacks earlier in the current homestand, the one-time D-backs’ starter held his former team scoreless over seven innings, giving up just one hit in the first and one in the sixth, in a dominant, 106-pitch outing in what ended up a 1-0 win in which he received no decision.

“Once I found the rhythm,” Scherzer said after the outing, “then I was starting to be able to execute with every pitch then, and once I’m able to execute with all the pitches then that makes the job so much easier on [catcher] Alex [Avila] to be able to call a game of how we wanted to pitch to those guys and we can execute a game plan at that point, so fortunately I was able to get away with something there in the first to be able to find a way and just go deep into a game.”

Scherzer got away with something again in the first when he faced the St. Louis Cardinals in the series finale of their three-game set in D.C. on Wednesday afternoon.

Scherzer hit the Cards’ leadoff hitter, Tommy Edman, gave up a one-out infield single by Nolan Arenado, and issued a walk to Paul DeJong before collecting back-to-back Ks that allowed him to escape the early jam in a 26-pitch frame.

He was up to 49 pitches after two innings and looking like he might not be around long, but the 36-year-old, three-time Cy Young award winner retired twelve in a row after giving up a two-out double in the second, and Scherzer stranded the only runner to reach base against him after the second, competing six scoreless innings on 109 pitches in what ended up a 1-0 win.

Max Scherzer’s Line: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 Ks, 109 P, 71 S, 1/3 GO/FO.

“He started off — couldn’t find the strike zone early, but he stayed with it,” manager Davey Martinez said in his post game Zoom call. “And I thought Alex Avila did a great job with him today, getting him through, and he started settling down, making pitches, and he was able to give us six innings.”

“After the second inning,” Avila said, “he felt much more comfortable in his mechanics and started throwing the first pitch strikes, which is key, and that kind of resulted in some early outs in those middle innings to help extend the outing.”

“Yeah,” Scherzer said, “... the first couple innings I was trying to generate — it was little bit cold today — so I was trying to generate and I was kind of getting out of my mechanics, I was jumping towards home plate. Kind of identified that after the second inning. That I didn’t have fastball location, I wasn’t filling up the zone. Pitch count was out of control and after that I was able to then get back into my legs and realize where the rhythm was, what I needed to do today and stay with my back side. And once I was able to do that, I was able to find rhythm, and then able to execute with all the pitches. And that’s when it gets fun.”

Fun for him. Probably not a lot of fun for Cardinals’ hitters.

“He’s one of the best,” Martinez added. “And he knows what he needs to do, and like I said, he had a rough go the first inning, and then you could see him settling down a little bit, and by the time we took him out he was really good. That last batter, you could see he let it go there, and he was done, but man, he gave us everything he had. Got to love the guy. The guy competes, he’s competitive, he wants to win every time he gets on that mound, and he wants us to win every time we play. I love having him.”