Max Scherzer has a clear preference when it comes to what his offense does behind him. Will accept races in any form. But if the Washington Nationals pitcher had to choose, he likes to let the ball jump out of the yard when there are runners on base, putting big numbers on the scoreboard right away and giving him a wide margin on the mound.
“I don’t care about your solo shots,” Scherzer said. “I want your two-run shots.”
In Washington’s 5-1 win Sunday against the Miami Marlins, Trea Turner and Josh Bell fulfilled their pitcher’s wish, turning what had been, until the top of the sixth inning, a pitching duel into a game defined by the long ball, with Turner. and Bell powering a Nationals offense that had cooled the last two days in losses.
First, Turner watched his 400-foot pump clear the wall in right center field. And two batters later, Bell could jump out of the batter’s box and take his time rounding the bases, another two-run homer that gave Washington all the firepower it needed to secure a four-game split series against the Miami Marlins.
“When it’s two-run shots, that makes me happy,” Scherzer said. “I love to spank our guys when they all want to celebrate their solo shots, but I get really excited when they do their two and three-run shots, because I know it’s usually when a ball game is won.”
Those explosions were what separated Washington and Miami on Sunday, with the Nationals jumping on Marlins ace Sandy Alcantara in the sixth. Alcantara had entered the game with a 2.93 ERA, and went over a run in the first inning to keep the Nationals off balance until Turner and Bell blew up.
Scherzer’s decisive blow and six innings of a career put Washington back on track after two losses to the Marlins.
Sunday’s win was the Nationals’ 11th in their last 14. But the road from here to the All-Star break is overwhelming, with the New York Mets, the Tampa Bay Rays, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the San Diego Padres and the San Francisco Giants. calendar. However, that glove could show a lot about Washington, shaping the way this season plays out.
“This is what you play for. You want to play with the best teams in the game, ”Scherzer said. “We have a stretch here where we play a lot of really good teams throughout the league. We have to take care of business. This is what you discover about yourself, when you start playing the best. “
The Nationals worked their way back to .500 with a victory Thursday against the Marlins, reaching that uniform record for the first time since May 2 through a 10-game win streak. During that span, the hit, which had been so messy, and the equally inconsistent pitch finally clicked at the same time.
They conceded three or fewer runs in nine of those 11 games, and although Washington averages 3.9 runs per game, the third-fewest in the majors, with clubs scoring five or more in seven games. But after hitting .500 again, the Nationals ran into family problems in losses on Friday and Saturday.
Jon Lester lasted just 2 1/3 innings on Friday, allowing seven runs. And Patrick Corbin struggled early before settling in, allowing three runs. However, it was not helped. Washington could only scratch in two runs, losing consecutive games for the first time in 18 days.
And on Sunday morning, the Nationals took another hit. Erick Fedde was placed on the 10-day disabled list, further thinning Washington’s starting pitching depth with Stephen Strasburg still recovering from nerve irritation in his neck. Strasburg pitched a bullpen on Sunday, his first since he was injured in early June, but the date of his return is still unknown.
That leaves questions about what the Nationals will do on Monday, when the New York Mets, leaders of the National League East, come to Washington for just one game. Fedde was supposed to start. Now Nationals manager Dave Martinez said Monday will likely be bullpen day. Andrés Machado, Jefry Rodríguez and Paolo Espino, recently promoted, could add length.
But Scherzer’s 102-pitch six-inning outing helped save the bullpen arms for that showdown with the Mets. He allowed five hits and one run, struck out seven and walked two. Scherzer struggled in the first, allowing an opening triple to Jazz Chisholm Jr. before Jesus Aguilar’s double took him home.
However, Scherzer settled in, working around the runners on base in the second and fourth. He walked two in the sixth, but Scherzer struck out Jorge Alfaro with a slider on the ground and hit Jon Berti with an elevated fastball to end his outing.
“Max did well,” Martinez said. “We got some decisive shots, some big home runs for us today. So everything went well. It’s good to catch a plane home with a W. “
Josh Harrison started the offense in the first inning, driving Kyle Schwarber home with a single before Aguilar tied the game in the bottom half of the frame. From there, Alcantara danced around the base runners until sixth, when he walked Schwarber on four pitches to set up Turner’s home run. After Juan Soto hit a single, it was Bell’s turn to drive a drive out of the park.
Those two explosions and a clean bullpen performance sealed the series split. But the road gets harder from here, with a formidable streak of opponents. If anything, the Nationals should know if their recent winning ways are emblematic of where they will finish or if recent form is a problem ahead of a summer sell-off.
“Whoever we’re playing with, it is what it is, but we have to focus on ourselves,” Turner said. “When we play the best we can, that’s what we do.”