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Nats unable to back Scherzer in loss to Rays

Special to MLB.com

ST. PETERSBURG -- An anemic Nationals offense spoiled Max Scherzer's magnificent outing in a 1-0 loss to the Rays on Tuesday afternoon in a second straight shutout at the hands of Tampa Bay. Washington managed just five hits in the two games at Tropicana Field.

"We just ran into two guys who throw the ball pretty dang well," Bryce Harper said.

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ST. PETERSBURG -- An anemic Nationals offense spoiled Max Scherzer's magnificent outing in a 1-0 loss to the Rays on Tuesday afternoon in a second straight shutout at the hands of Tampa Bay. Washington managed just five hits in the two games at Tropicana Field.

"We just ran into two guys who throw the ball pretty dang well," Bryce Harper said.

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Scherzer took the hard-luck loss after allowing four hits, striking out four and walking three in seven innings.

Scherzer's only run of the game came after he gave up singles to Kevin Kiermaier and Matt Duffy to lead off the first inning. Jake Bauers plated Kiermaier with a fielder's choice. The three-time Cy Young Award winner would put up zeros -- including a perfect six-pitch sixth inning -- the rest of the way.

"You know what you're going to get from Max every time he goes out there," Nats manager Dave Martinez said. "He gives you all he's got every time out. He kept us in the ballgame."

Scherzer did run into a bit of trouble in bottom of the seventh, allowing consecutive singles to center, this time by C.J. Cron and Daniel Robertson, to put two on with no outs. A sacrifice bunt by Mallex Smith moved the runners over, but Scherzer was able to strike out Adeiny Hechavarria and induce an infield popup from Kiermaier to leave the runners stranded.

"They were really aggressive," Scherzer said. "They were grinding the ABs. They knew what I had and you could tell they made the adjustments."

For a second straight day, the Nationals were stymied by a Rays starter, as Nathan Eovaldi, who retired the first nine batters to start the game, carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning on his way to a nine-strikeout performance.

Video: TB@WSH: Harper doubles, breaks up Eovaldi's no-hitter

The Nats didn't get their first baserunner until the top of the fourth after Eovaldi clipped Adam Eaton with a cutter that ran too far inside. Harper walked to put two men on with no outs, but a botched double steal resulted in Eaton being run down by catcher Wilson Ramos as he was retreating back to second base.

"[Eaton] false broke," Martinez explained. "He thought he had him timed and he held the ball just a split second, so he stopped. Once you are at first base and you see that, you just put your head down and go."

After a walk by Juan Soto, Eovaldi was able to get Daniel Murphy to ground out to the shortstop to end the threat.

Harper finally broke up the no-hitter with an opposite-field double down the left-field line with two outs in the top of the sixth. Harper has seven hits (all doubles) in the past eight games.

Video: TB@WSH: Nationals, Rays benches empty on last out

After the game's final out, things got a little chippy between the two teams after Nationals players took exception to a hand gesture from Rays reliever Sergio Romo. Frustrations had evidently carried over from their June 6 meeting in Washington, as Romo expressed anger over Taylor stealing in the sixth inning of a blowout.

"That's not right," Martinez said. "[Romo] has been in this league a long time to know you don't do that kind of stuff."

Benches cleared and words were exchanged, but the situation was quickly diffused by the umpires.

"We lost the game and that's the only thing that upsets me," Taylor said. "The talking and things like that, I'm not big on drama, so it's whatever."

NATS UNABLE TO BREAK THROUGH IN ODD NINTH
After Rays reliever Jose Alvarado walked Harper to lead off the bottom of the ninth, Chaz Roe was brought on to face Anthony Rendon -- with Alvarado staying in the game to play first base. Roe got Rendon to strike out swinging on a nasty slider for the first out of the inning.

Alvarado then returned to the mound to face Soto, who picked up the Nats' second hit of the game with a single to center. Murphy loaded the bases with a bloop single to the opposite field. Romo was then brought on to face Trea Turner, who popped out to shallow center before Romo struck out Taylor to end the game.

Video: WSH@TB: Cash moves Alvarado to 1st in eventful 9th

SOUND SMART
Scherzer's four strikeouts on Tuesday left him just seven shy of 1,000 in a Washington uniform. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Scherzer, who had 1,081 K's in his five years with Detroit, would become just the 11th pitcher in baseball history to record 1,000 strikeouts for two teams, joining Jim Bunning (Detroit/Philadelphia), Roger Clemens (Boston/Yankees), Randy Johnson (Seattle/Arizona), Mark Langston (Anaheim/Seattle), Greg Maddux (Cubs/Atlanta), Mike Mussina (Baltimore/Yankees), Nolan Ryan (California/Houston), CC Sabathia (Cleveland/Yankees), Luis Tiant (Boston/Cleveland) and Cy Young (Cleveland/Boston).

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Leading off the bottom of the sixth, Ramos hit a first-pitch fastball from Scherzer toward the wall in left-center. Nats center fielder Taylor was able to make a leaping grab and hold on as he crashed into the wall just in front of the ray fish tank to take away a potential extra-base hit.

Video: WSH@TB: Taylor leaps to snag Ramos' sharp fly ball

HE SAID IT
"We're in a little bit of a funk right now. This day off couldn't come soon enough. We've had a rough go with our schedule here the last few days, so a little break will do the boys right." -- Martinez, on losing two straight

UP NEXT
The Nationals will get a much-needed day off on Wednesday before continuing their six-game road trip with a four-game set against the Phillies starting on Thursday at 7:05 p.m. ET. Tanner Roark (3-8, 4.27 ERA) will get the start opposite the Phils' Aaron Nola (9-2, 2.58).Washington is 3-8 over its past 11 games, tied for the worst stretch of the season.

J. Scott Butherus is a contributor to MLB.com.

Washington Nationals