After the Nationals dropped Saturday’s game to the Marlins, they had reason to be looking forward to the series finale the following afternoon.
“You’ve got Max on the bump tomorrow, so that takes a little bit of pressure off of us,” Josh Bell said. “We know we’ve just got to scratch a couple of runs across and let him do his thing.”
That plan worked.
The Nationals provided plenty of offensive support for Max Scherzer in their 5-1 win at loanDepot park on Sunday. Bell and Trea Turner pummeled a pair of opposite-field, two-run home runs off Sandy Alcantara in a four-run sixth inning to give Scherzer a cushion in his second outing since his return from the injured list.
“The biggest thing was that our offense went,” Scherzer said. “I’m a big believer that -- I don’t care about your solo shots, I want your two-run shots. … I get really excited when they hit their two- and three-run shots because I know that’s usually when you win the ballgame.”
Turner’s long shot that drove in Kyle Schwarber traveled a Statcast-projected 400 feet at 103.6 mph. It was his first homer since June 19 and only second since May 17.
After Juan Soto singled in the next at-bat, Bell hammered a no-doubter 419 feet at 107.8 mph to break open the lead. He has homered in two of his last three games.
"Left one up to Turner trying to go away,” said Marlins manager Don Mattingly of Alcantara. “It's kind of the same thing on the opposite way with Bell -- just right where he likes it, kind of moving out over a little bit, right to his barrel."
Scherzer tossed six innings, allowing one run off five hits and two walks while notching seven strikeouts. After facing 10 batters in the first two innings combined (including an RBI double by Jesús Aguilar in the first), Scherzer made quick work of the middle frames to keep his pitch count in check.
“Everybody knows [Scherzer] attacks the strike zone, and they’re coming out swinging,” manager Dave Martinez said. “He settled down, made his pitches and looked great.”
Scherzer reached the 2,900-strikeout mark along the way and capped off his outing with back-to-back strikeouts. He also tipped his cap to catcher Alex Avila -- a former teammate from their days on the Tigers -- for navigating his 15th start of the season.
“Alex did a great job behind the plate tonight,” Scherzer said. “I felt like he was putting down exactly what I was thinking. When you get in rhythm with your catcher, it allows you to execute.”