Max’s marvelous May spoiled by solo HRs

Nationals' ace 'outpitched' despite 9 K's over 7 innings

May 26th, 2021

WASHINGTON -- 's attempt at an undefeated month of May was halted on Tuesday in a 2-1 loss to the Reds in the series opener at Nationals Park.

Solo home runs given up to Kyle Farmer and Eugenio Suárez ruled Scherzer’s 10th start of the season. Aside from those miscues, the righty fanned nine and allowed five hits and one walk over seven innings. He threw 67 of his 107 pitches for strikes.

Scherzer had been on a roll this month. In four starts, he was 3-0 with a 1.37 ERA. Tuesday marked his first loss since April 27.

“You probably don’t lose on one solo shot, but tonight, I got beat on two solo shots,” Scherzer said. “I got outpitched, that’s just the way it went. Even though I had a lot of good stuff tonight, I did a lot of things right, [Reds starter Tyler] Mahle came in and threw better than me tonight. You’ve got to tip your hat to him. He did a great job on the mound. The Suárez homer is the difference in the ballgame.”

Entering the series, Scherzer had limited Suárez to one hit in 13 at-bats (.077). That one hit, though, had been a homer. Suárez jumped on Scherzer’s changeup in the sixth for what turned out to be the Reds’ insurance run.

“I knew I had to make adjustments against Max Scherzer, one of the best pitchers in the league -- everyone knows that,” Suárez said. “He missed up -- a changeup right in my strike zone -- and I was ready to hit it.”

The three-time Cy Young Award winner has been noticing a trend of hitters swinging early against him. Suárez swung at Scherzer’s first pitch of the game -- and missed. Farmer’s home run came on the opening pitch of the third inning. In both instances, it was a 94 mph fastball. Overall on Tuesday, the Reds swung at 40.7 percent of Scherzer’s first pitches, the third-highest rate in his starts this season.

“I feel like it’s been happening more and more in my career -- guys are going up there early, hacking,” Scherzer said. “I know that going into almost every start now, that every hitter’s up there just swinging against me. There’s no free fastballs, there’s no free Strike 1. Every pitch has to have intent on it. Otherwise, that’s how they catch me and they catch a mistake and they hit a homer.

“I’m cognizant of that. That’s fine. You can pitch around it, you can sequence around that and you can be better at it once you know that’s their approach.”

The lack of offensive support on Tuesday, though, didn’t allow Scherzer much margin for error. After posting 22 runs in their three-game weekend sweep of the Orioles, the Nats’ only run came off a Josh Bell solo homer in the ninth.

“It stinks only putting up one run when you only give up two,” said shortstop Trea Turner. “It would have been nice to get a few more and get a win, obviously. But it’s baseball and we’ve got to move on for tomorrow.”

Scherzer entered the game having gone 5-0 with 55 strikeouts and a 1.06 ERA in his last five starts (34 innings) against the Reds. This was his first outing vs. Cincinnati since the 2019 season.

“We’ve seen other great pitchers, and that’s what we kind of have to do against them,” Scherzer said. “That’s life in the big leagues. They’re sitting there finding every which way to beat you every single time. It does not matter. As soon as a team finds success in a way to attack you, the rest of the league’s going to copy that. So it’s nothing new. This is life in the big leagues.”