WASHINGTON -- The story of the night in the Marlins' 9-4 loss to the Nationals on Tuesday at Nationals Park was Max Scherzer becoming the 17th MLB pitcher since 1900 and sixth since 1990 to reach 300 strikeouts.For the Marlins, it was a familiar storyline. Tuesday night featured yet another
WASHINGTON -- The story of the night in the Marlins' 9-4 loss to the Nationals on Tuesday at Nationals Park was Max Scherzer becoming the 17th MLB pitcher since 1900 and sixth since 1990 to reach 300 strikeouts.
For the Marlins, it was a familiar storyline. Tuesday night featured yet another game in which a rookie starter issued too many walks and didn't throw enough strikes. Jeff Brigham issued four free passes in four innings while allowing a three-run home run to Anthony Rendon. Against the reigning two-time National League Cy Young Award winner, that led to another long night.
"It started off bad, and probably could have been a lot worse," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "The double plays in there kind of saved [Brigham]. A lot of pitches, a lot of missed [locations] I felt like today."
Scherzer struck out 10 while allowing one run, and the veteran didn't walk a batter as he improved to 18-7. Scherzer reached No. 300 by fanning rookie Austin Dean on a full-count slider in the seventh inning.
"I absolutely admire his competitiveness on the mound," Brigham said. "That's something I aspire to have every time I'm out there, is to compete at the highest level. There's no one that competes harder than he does."
Making his fourth start since being called up on Sept. 1, Brigham walked four or more batters in three of those starts.
"[Scherzer] can pretty much throw anything he wants, and he can throw anything at any time, and he's got a different mix," Mattingly said. "For our guys, maybe the composure and just not giving in. The possibility of him throwing strikes when he wants to is important. It's something we talk about. If you don't have that mix, it's different."
In Monday's 7-3 loss, rookie Sandy Alcantara faced similar command issues, walking five as he allowed six runs in four innings. The Marlins are using September to help identify if Brigham projects as a starter or a reliever. To remain a rotation candidate, the 26-year-old will need to show better control.
Trailing 9-1 in the eighth inning, Miami first baseman Peter O'Brien belted a two-run homer off Austen Williams.
Rendon drove in four runs, adding an RBI double in a six-run seventh inning. Against the Marlins this season, the Nationals third baseman has four homers and 16 RBIs.
"Early on, I couldn't get in the zone," Brigham said. "Rendon puts a good swing on a pitch elevated where I didn't want it, and I spotted Scherzer three runs. And that's something you don't want to do."
Scherzer limited the Marlins to one baserunner -- a hit by pitch to Dean -- through three innings. In the fourth inning, Miami collected its first hit and pushed across a run. Miguel Rojas singled, then scored on Brian Anderson's RBI double to left, closing the gap, 3-1.
Scherzer improved to 5-0 with a 2.38 ERA and 37 strikeouts over 34 innings against the Marlins this season.
"You never want to face a guy like that," Mattingly said. "I think it's fun for our guys, that challenge with him, because it's the best. If it's not the best, it's one of the best, and I think that challenge is always good for hitters. It lets you know where you're at. If you can handle that, it's not going to get better than that.
"I think the challenge is good for us, but it's definitely not a day you feel like you're going to knock him around the ballpark."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Before the Nationals broke the game open with six runs in the seventh, the Marlins had a chance to chip back into the game off Scherzer in the fourth inning. Rojas led off with a single, and with two outs, Anderson hit an RBI double. With two outs and Anderson in scoring position, Lewis Brinson had a chance to close the gap, but struck out.
O'Brien has four home runs in 18 games since his September callup. Statcast™ projected Tuesday's shot at 407 feet with an exit speed of 109.7 mph.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Adam Eaton walked and stole second to start the first inning, but it was not without some suspense. The Marlins considered reviewing the close play at second as J.T. Realmuto made a strong, quick throw to shortstop JT Riddle that was nearly in time. According to Statcast™, Realmuto's pop time was 1.79 seconds, and the throw was 86.2 mph.
• Realmuto gets look to be player manager for a day
Brinson made a stellar diving catch in the fourth inning, robbing Wilmer Difo of a hit. Statcast™ gave it a three-star catch, and it had a catch probability of 68 percent. Brinson covered 82 feet in 4.8 seconds.
HE SAID IT
"He gave me some good pitches. His ball was moving a lot. I was obviously making him work for it. I didn't even know it was his 300th attempt until everybody started getting up. At the end of the day, I don't really care, but he's had a [great] season. Hats off to him. It's still a cool accomplishment for him. I felt great with that at-bat. I battled. At the end of the day it is what it is." -- Dean, on his 10-pitch showdown that ended with Scherzer's 300th strikeout.
Marlins left-hander Wei-Yin Chen caps his season by facing the Nationals on Wednesday at 4:05 p.m. ET at Nationals Park. On the road, the 33-year-old has a 9.29 ERA, but in Miami, his ERA is 1.62. In four September starts, Chen's ERA is 3.52. Washington will counter with right-hander Kyle McGowin, who will make his first career start in place of Tanner Roark.
Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.
Ian Quillen is a contributor to MLB.com based in Washington.