TORONTO -- For a lineup as deep as Washington's, which benefits even more from having the designated hitter this weekend, it is surprising to see the Nationals go this cold this often. They were blanked once again on Saturday afternoon, losing, 2-0, to the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre, marking the fourth time in 12 games this month they have been shut out.
This time they wasted a strong outing from Max Scherzer, who was outdueled by right-hander Marco Estrada, as the Nationals' bats went quiet once again.
"It's surprising, but it happens," manager Dave Martinez said. "Sometimes you run into good pitchers. I know Estrada threw well his last outing too, so it wasn't a surprise. He's not going to come in there and say, 'Here you go guys hit the ball.' We battled. He battled and we just couldn't get nothing going."
It's striking that the Nationals have so often not found a way to get anything going on offense, especially considering they have started to get healthier recently. Adam Eaton and Daniel Murphy have both come off the DL this month, making this lineup much deeper than it was through the early portion of the season.
And yet, on Saturday they were held to just three hits as they were shut out for the third time in the past five games.
"I think good pitching beats good hitting any day of the week," Bryce Harper said. "That's baseball. Just have to keep grinding, keep going."
Despite the loss, Scherzer became the first pitcher in the Majors this season to surpass the 150-strikeout mark. He surrendered one blemish, leaving a slider up too high in the strike zone that Blue Jays second baseman Devon Travis deposited into the left-field seats for a two-run home run in the fifth inning.
Otherwise, Scherzer struck out 10 and held Toronto to four hits in six innings. This loss was far from his fault, but it's the first time he has dropped consecutive starts since he lost three straight in August 2015 -- despite giving up four runs on two homers in 13 innings with 19 strikeouts during that span.
"This is Major League Baseball. One pitch can cost you a game," Scherzer said. "Now I've had it happen back-to-back starts. … You can get beat like that. I've got to keep executing every single pitch I throw."
That one pitch was the difference because Washington could not generate much offense. Estrada, drafted by the Nats in the sixth round in 2005, began the game with a 5.09 ERA this season, but he hardly looked that part on Saturday afternoon. He surrendered just three hits and a pair of walks in 6 2/3 innings of shutout ball with four strikeouts.
"We had some pitches to hit, we just didn't hit them," Martinez said. "I mean really, if you look at it, we just couldn't get nothing going."
This was Scherzer's 74th double-digit strikeout game in his career, tying him with Hall of Famer Bob Gibson and Sam McDowell for eighth most in MLB history (since 1913).
HE SAID IT
"I watch him and he gets a little frustrated. The biggest thing is just to keep him level-headed and let him go out there and do his thing. I've said this before, he's one of the best players in the game. He's going to carry us, I know he is. I just want him to go out there and have fun and do the little things. Take his walks. He had a couple pitches to hit and fouled him back. Typically, he hits those balls and he hits them really hard and really far. So, I just want him to go out there and relax and play the game and when he does that he's really good." -- Martinez, on Harper, who has struck out 20 times this month
Tanner Roark will make his first career start against the Blue Jays for Sunday's series finale at 1:07 p.m. ET. He has been one of the Nationals' steadiest pitchers this season, tossing at least six innings in all but one of his 13 starts. Right-hander Sam Gaviglio (2-2, 3.66 ERA) will be the opposing pitcher for Toronto.