WASHINGTON -- Max Scherzer compared the atmosphere of pitching in the Midsummer Classic to the postseason, a fact that would only be amplified by starting this game in his home ballpark. And being given the chance to measure himself against the best on this sort of stage is the reason Scherzer relishes pitching in games such as Tuesday's 89th All-Star Game presented by Mastercard.
Scherzer, who has won the past two National League Cy Young Awards, struck out four and gave up a run in two innings to start the game for the NL All-Star team, which eventually lost to the American League, 8-6, in 10 innings. He was not the only National who relished the experience, as Bryce Harper took it all in from center field and the injured Sean Doolittle stayed through the whole game despite being unable to pitch.
:: Complete All-Star Game coverage ::
"It was awesome. What an atmosphere," Scherzer said. "I thought we were a great host team. All the other players in here loved our facility and the treatment that we received. D.C. did it right."
Harper went 0-for-2 with a pair of strikeouts before he was removed from the game after the fifth inning, but he gave Nationals Park plenty to cheer about the previous night after winning the T-Mobile Home Run Derby.
Tuesday night was Scherzer's chance to excite the home crowd.
Scherzer began the game by striking out both Mookie Betts and Jose Altuve, building the anticipation of the sold-out crowd of 43,843 fans hoping he could strike out the side. But he was thwarted by Michael Trout, who worked an eight-pitch walk.
"I was pumped," Scherzer said. "The adrenaline was flowing. I really wanted to strike him out. I was throwing pitches I thought could get it, but he put a great battle on me and unfortunately I walked him, but I'd love to do it again."
"I mean, he's battling, I'm battling, the crowd's going crazy," Trout said during his in-game interview in the second inning. "They're chanting his name -- obviously hometown [pitcher]. It was electric. He was amped up. I love that stuff."
After the walk to Trout, Scherzer surrendered a single to J.D. Martinez before Jose Ramirez popped out to finish a 19-pitch scoreless frame. He was the lone NL pitcher scheduled for two innings on Tuesday night, but his only blemish came at the start of the second when Aaron Judge crushed a leadoff home run into the visiting bullpen.
"I threw a fastball up and I hit my spot, I hit the glove, but he's 6-7," Scherzer said with a laugh. "Man, I really thought I threw that high, but you got to go higher than higher than high against him."
Scherzer completed his second straight All-Star Game start with a pair of strikeouts in the second inning.
Harper's night began with a roar as he received perhaps the loudest cheers of anyone introduced before the game. But at the plate, it went quietly as he fanned in the second inning against Luis Severino and struck out looking in the fourth against Blake Snell. Harper will surely be forgiven, though, thanks to his memorable showing the night before to bring home the Home Run Derby crown.
"I had a blast," Harper said during his in-game interview. "Just going out there and acting like we were in the backyard, just swinging, having fun and enjoying it. There's nothing better than taking BP with your dad, and that's one of the best things I've ever done.
"I felt pretty good last night. The crowd came out, and they've done it again tonight, too."
All three Nationals representatives -- Scherzer, Harper and Doolittle, who did not pitch because of a foot injury -- remained in the dugout until the end of the game, chatting with fellow All-Stars and soaking up the moment.
Getting the nod to start the first Midsummer Classic in D.C. since 1969 was certainly an honor for Scherzer, even though this was his second straight All-Star start and third in his career.
"When you're here, it's being in this clubhouse," Scherzer said about his favorite moments from the game. "Being in the clubhouse, talking to the veterans, talking to guys who have been here, getting to know everybody, getting the personalities, you can actually learn a lot from the other players in the league.
"They're watching you, they're watching your team and you get in these conversations and it's great. ... You're finding little things in the game that make them successful and what made you successful and see if you can get better."