September 15, 2019

Washington Nationals Game 69 Review: NO-NO FOR SCHERZER

MAX SCHERZER STRIKES OUT 10, ONE STRIKE AWAY FROM PERFECTO

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Max Scherzer and Dan Kolko covered in chocolate sauce. (Screengrab by @cnichols14/DistrictSportsPage)

Last time out, Max Scherzer came one broken-bat looper from tossing a no-hitter. As it was, the one-hit, one-walk complete game shutout was just the second complete game of his career, and his game score of 100 includes the performance on the list as one of the greatest pitching outings in Washington baseball history.

So what did he do for a follow-up?

How about a two-strike, two-out hit-by-pitch in the ninth inning being the only blemish on a no-hitter?.

In front of a capacity 41, 104 at Nats Park, Max Scherzer threw the second no-hitter in Washington Nationals history, striking out 10 in a performance as dominant as the one-hitter last Sunday. Though his game score was just a tick below his last outing, it was every bit as impressive. And he came one strike from throwing the 24th perfect game in baseball history.Scherzer gained momentum as the game wore on, and he stalked the mound after every strikeout as things progressed. In the ninth, Gregory Polanco fouled out to third on a terrific catch at the rail by Anthony Rendon, and Jordy Mercer flied out to center, setting up the dramatics.

Scherzer got ahead of pinch-hitter Jose Tabata 0-2, then gave up two balls, then Tabata fouled off three straight. On the 2-2 count, Scherzer tried to come inside with a slider, and Tabata clearly dropped his left elbow — covered with a plastic arm guard — into the pitch for the free pass, breaking up Scherzer’s perfect game.

The Nats starter then got ahead of Josh Harrison 0-2 before coaxing a fly ball to left, which Michael Taylor snagged easily to complete the no-hitter.

The closest the Pirates got to a hit all day was in the eighth inning with two outs. With a shift deployed against Pedro Alvarez, the portly first baseman got a ball through the right side. But Danny Espinosa was stationed in right center. He raced in, scooped it like an outfielder, and fired to Tyler Moore to retire Alvarez by half a step.

The Nats only needed one run due to Scherzer’s dominance, but they scored six to make the going a little easier.

Bryce Harper missed Friday’s game nursing a strained hamstring, injured trying to make a throw home in the rain-soaked game Thursday night. He moved a little gingerly making a catch at the wall in the first inning, but had no such apprehension in his at bat in the fourth.

Anthony Rendon flied out to start the frame, and Harper took the first pitch from Francisco Liriano for a ball. On the 1-0 count, Liriano offered Harper an 86-mph slider up and over the plate. Harper clubbed it to dead center, with the ball landing an estimated 436 feet from home plate in the grassy batter’s eye to the right of the “Red Porch” seats.

It was Harper’s 23rd homer of the season — a new career high.

The Nats (36-33) added to the lead in the sixth. With one out, Denard Span struck out but when catcher Francsico Cervelli couldn’t find the ball, the speedy Span reached anyway. He promptly stole second, then score don Rendon’s RBI double.

Harper then came through again, lacing a single to left-center. Rendon had to hold to make sure it would get down, then turned on the burners to race home with a 3-0 lead.

Wilson Ramos followed with a single to deep short, and Danny Espinosa’s tapper out in front of the plate moved the runners to second and third. Tyler Moore then singled though the vacated right side of the infield, with the Pirates playing an exaggerated shift. Harper and Ramos scored to make it 5-0, ending Liriano’s day.

In the next inning, the Nats picked up another one. Michael Taylor doubled to the wall in left, went to third on Scherzer’s sacrifice, and came home on a wild pitch to Rendon.

After that, it was all Scherzer.

HERO: Scherzer, obviously. But major props to Espinosa on the defensive play of the game.

GOAT: Tabata. Classless move, clearly intentionally dropping his elbow to get hit with two strikes on him in the ninth inning. Might as well have tried to bunt for a hit.

NATS NOTES:

  • Scherzer moves his record to 8-5 with 1.76 ERA.
  • Harper had two hits in his first game back after the hamstring strain.

NEXT GAME: Rubber match of the three-game series at 1:05 Eastern. Gio Gonzalez (4-4, 4.82) faces Charlie Morton (5-0, 1.62).

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Max Scherzer acknowledges the capacity crowd after no-hitter. (Screencap by @cnichols14/DistrictSportsPage)

About Dave Nichols

Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Washington Nationals, Capitals, Wizards and Mystics. Dave also covers national college football and basketball and Major League Soccer for Associated Press and is a copy editor for the Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane, WA. He spent four years in radio covering the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Redskins and the University of Maryland football and basketball teams. Dave is a life-long D.C. sports fan and attended his first pro game in 1974 — the Caps’ second game in existence. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveNicholsDSP

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