CINCINNATI -- Max Scherzer wasn't entirely on point in his first start of the second half, but the Nationals ace found plenty of ways to keep the Reds off of the scoreboard on Saturday. Although Scherzer blanked the Reds for six innings, the Nationals bullpen nearly gave a huge lead
CINCINNATI -- Max Scherzer wasn't entirely on point in his first start of the second half, but the Nationals ace found plenty of ways to keep the Reds off of the scoreboard on Saturday. Although Scherzer blanked the Reds for six innings, the Nationals bullpen nearly gave a huge lead back before hanging on for a 10-7 victory over Cincinnati.
Scherzer struck out 10 batters over six scoreless innings while allowing three hits and four walks. He left with a 3-0 lead and the Nationals were leading by a 10-0 score after seven innings.
"I've dealt with a lot of failure in my career," Scherzer said. "The thing is, I've learned from that. I know how to make pitches. ... Matt Wieters did such a great job of throwing the right sequence. When they were looking fastball, we were throwing off-speed; when they were looking off-speed, we were throwing fastballs. And so we did a great job of keeping them off balance and never gave up the big hit."
Anthony Rendon enjoyed a six-RBI night with two home runs, including a grand slam in the top of the seventh, to keep things comfortable for Washington. Rendon reached safely in all five of his plate appearances, with three hits.
The game was closer under the watch of Reds rookie starter Luis Castillo, who gave up three earned runs and three hits over six innings with four walks and six strikeouts. Castillo didn't allow a hit through the first three innings before giving up all of his runs in the fourth inning, including a Rendon two-run homer.
Scherzer, the Major League leader in ERA and the National League leader in strikeouts, had double-digit strikeouts for the ninth time in his last 10 starts and 61st time in his career. He finished each of his first five innings with a strikeout.
It was a disastrous evening for Reds relievers Michael Lorenzen and Blake Wood in the seventh. Lorenzen faced seven batters, retired one and started out with Ryan Raburn slugging a leadoff homer. After he left with one out and the bases loaded, Wood surrendered Rendon's grand slam to center field that capped a seven-run rally.
The six runs charged to Lorenzen over one-third of an inning ballooned his ERA from 2.93 to 4.08. The Nationals scored at least 10 runs for the 16th time this season, extending their club record (beginning in 2005).
"We went with our best guy for that situation with Michael," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "He didn't have it today, and they were able to put together the big inning. It looked like a knockout blow, but to the credit of the guys who were still in the game, they just kept the pedal to the metal so to speak."
In the eighth inning, Nationals reliever Austin Adams struggled mightily in his big league debut, loading the bases with no outs on no hits. Scooter Gennett's walk forced home a run and snapped Cincinnati's scoreless streak at 19 innings, one shy of the club's season high. Eugenio Suarez followed with an RBI single. Trevor Gott fared worse in the bottom of the ninth as he allowed five hits without retiring a batter. With one run already in, Gennett made it a three-run game with a three-run homer to right field, his 16th of the season. Matt Grace picked up the final three outs for his second save in two nights.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Max effort: The Reds opened the night by putting Scherzer on the ropes in the first inning, with Billy Hamilton hitting a double followed by a Zack Cozart walk. Scherzer responded by striking out the side of Joey Votto, Adam Duvall and Gennett in order and struck out the side again in the second inning following a leadoff walk.
"When you're having to face Votto, nobody out, first and second, that's just tough," Scherzer said. "Your back's against the wall. And together, [Wieters and I] did a good job throwing the right pitch at the right time and collecting strikeouts in those big situations."
"We had him on the ropes, and he pitched his way through it," Price said. "He does that to a lot of teams and a lot of lineups and a lot of really good hitters. We got his pitch count up, but I thought the most costly innings were four and five, because he ... stabilized his pitch count."
Murphy snaps tie: It was actually a pitchers' duel in the early going and a scoreless tie until the fourth inning. After Bryce Harper notched Washington's first hit with one out, Daniel Murphy launched a RBI double to the wall in left-center field to make it a 1-0 game. Murphy, who was given an extra day off after the All-Star break, came into the game second in the Majors in doubles.
"The middle of our order, they've all got 60 RBIs," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "They're all hitting .300. They're carrying most of the weight on this team."
"I think we all collectively want to see a strong finish to the second half and create a renewed excitement about where we are. I think that's just what it is at this point in time. I say it all the time, there's talent here. I don't think we're far away from being one of the better teams if not the best team in the division. I really don't. But you don't want to keep losing and keep talking about how good you are. We've got to win more games." -- Price, on his 39-51 club.
Nationals:Tanner Roark will man the mound for the Nationals in Sunday's 1:10 p.m. ET game. He hasn't had a quality start since June 9 and has allowed three or more runs in six of his last seven appearances.
Reds:Homer Bailey will get the ball and seek to extend his two-start win streak on Sunday. After he went 0-2 with a 27.00 ERA in his first two starts back from elbow surgery, Bailey is 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA over his last two starts.
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Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.
Jeremy Vernon is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cincinnati and covered the Nationals on Saturday.