Good as new: Scherzer dominates in Miami
Right-hander spins eight scoreless innings to snap Nats out of losing skid
MIAMI -- Hoping to avoid matching a season-long six-game skid with their postseason hopes dwindling, the Nationals turned to ace Max Scherzer in Sunday's finale against the Marlins.
Scherzer, who hadn't won since July 31 over a span of seven starts, tossed eight scoreless innings in a 5-0 victory.
The 31-year-old righty permitted just five hits with six strikeouts and no walks over 102 pitches (74 strikes). In true Scherzer fashion, he hasn't issued a free pass in four straight outings. He entered with baseball's best strikeout/walk rate at 8.65.
"I thought I was able to pitch in when I needed to, pitch in for effect, move the ball up and down," Scherzer said. "Just more quality pitches overall from a standpoint. When I was locating my fastballs I was able to pitch off of that with all my offspeed. Made some big pitches there in the early part of the game when it was only a 1-2 run game, and [Wilson] Ramos back there having a good mix and doing his job. Everybody played ball today, and that's what we needed to do to beat this ballclub."
Since Aug. 4, Scherzer (12-11) had gone 0-3 with a 6.08 ERA in seven starts. His ERA had ballooned from 2.22 to 3.03. It dropped back to 2.91 on Sunday.
Teammate Jayson Werth called him the "same ol' Max," a competitor who becomes a different person on days he starts.
Manager Matt Williams, who would've allowed Scherzer to go out for the ninth had he not expended energy in the eighth with a a five-run cushion, said everything was working for him on the mound. He took time to point out his fastball command to both sides of the plate as well as changeups to left-handed bats. If Scherzer had closed out the ninth, it would have been his fourth complete game of the season.
"I don't know if he ever doubts himself," Williams said. "Today is an example of location and down in the zone location with good fastballs down and away to right-handers. That's bread and butter to him. It sets his at-bats up. Couple of guys in their lineup have decent numbers against him. He handled [Martin] Prado nicely today, which was the bugaboo last time he faced these guys. Pitched well."
Scherzer never threw more than 17 pitches in an inning. The eight frames were the deepest he went in a game since July 12. Runners reached scoring position just three times against him.
Not only did he minimize mistakes, but if he did make one, they were hard-hit balls at defenders. It was a welcome change from his recent stretch.
"My confidence doesn't change because of results," Scherzer said. "I know I've been scuffling. I understand it, but at the same time I feel like I have been throwing the ball well I've just been making a few too many mistakes and getting beaten on those mistakes and those mistakes have been home runs. Overall, I thought over the past month or so I've been throwing the ball well -- I just haven't gotten the results. Being able to go out there and limit the amount of mistakes I do make and have them hit the ball at people makes for a good outing. As for confidence or mental -- [It] doesn't do anything. Every time I take the mound, I always believe I can have success regardless of what happened the previous time. Because of that, this is what I expect to do."