WASHINGTON -- Opposing teams just never seem to be hitting when Max Scherzer is on the mound. It might have a little to do with the electric stuff of the Nationals' ace.Scherzer slammed the door on the Rays Tuesday night in a 4-2 win at Nationals Park, handing Tampa Bay
WASHINGTON -- Opposing teams just never seem to be hitting when Max Scherzer is on the mound. It might have a little to do with the electric stuff of the Nationals' ace.
Scherzer slammed the door on the Rays Tuesday night in a 4-2 win at Nationals Park, handing Tampa Bay (28-31) its fifth consecutive loss.
"He can throw any pitch in any count," said outfielder Carlos Gomez of Scherzer. "He works really fast. It's funny to say, but everybody enjoys watching that guy pitch. Every inning he gets tougher and tougher. He's got that attitude that, 'It's my game.' Every pitch he throws is power. Hard slider, hard curve. He threw me one changeup today that I didn't expect. … He has a funky delivery, plus good stuff. That's why he's one of the best pitchers in baseball, or the best."
How dominant was Scherzer? Well, he retired the first seven batters he faced before Johnny Field doubled to left. Then in the sixth, he struck out Field, Christian Arroyo, and Daniel Robertson in order, using just nine pitches for an immaculate inning -- the second time in his career he's turned that trick.
"I looked up at one time, he had 86 pitches, and 70 strikes. It's absurd," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "Guys just don't do that. There's a lot of good pitchers in this league, but for a guy to just sit there and pound the strike zone the way he did and not give up hard hits, it's really telling about how special of a pitcher he is."
For the evening Scherzer struck out 13 -- the ninth time this season he's struck out 10-plus batters, and the 73rd time he's done so in his career.
"He throws 96 from his armpit, basically," second baseman Joey Wendle said. "He does a really good job of hiding the ball. He has the same arm slot, same arm speed pretty much every pitch. You know a strike's coming, but you don't know what pitch, and you don't know in what count, or in what location, so he's pretty unpredictable."
Brad Miller managed to briefly end Scherzer's spell when he pinch-hit in the eighth and came through with a two-out, two-run double to center field. Scherzer recovered to strike out Robertson to end the threat.
Sean Doolittle got the final three outs of the game to preserve the win and earn his 15th save of the season. Meanwhile, Scherzer moved to 10-1 on the season, needing just 99 pitches -- 81 of which were strikes, to cover his eight innings of work.
Nathan Eovaldi started for the Rays and retired the Nationals in order in the first, moving him to seven scoreless and hitless innings for the season, dating back to Wednesday when he no-hit Oakland for six innings. That changed in the second when Matt Adams led off the inning with a loud home run to right-center field that traveled 422 feet with an exit velocity of 107.8 mph. The Nationals added another run in the second, and two in the fourth, when Wilmer Difo tripled home a run, then scored on an Eovaldi wild pitch to push the lead to 4-0.
"I feel like I was ahead in most of the counts tonight," Eovaldi said. "I just couldn't put them away. I couldn't get the splitter going, and the cutter wasn't as good tonight as it was in that Oakland start."
Mallex Smith struck out swinging in the eighth on a check swing. Before the Rays returned for the bottom half of the inning, he had been ejected.
"Mallex was not happy about the check swing call," Cash said. "It looked from our side that it was one of those very borderline ones. I think he voiced his displeasure coming back to the dugout, then going back out. Looked like the umpire kind of said, 'I've had enough,' and decided to act on it."
Wilmer Font and Ryne Stanek covered the final three innings for the Rays in impressive fashion, retiring nine in a row. Stanek struck out the side in the eighth, including a full-count, swinging strikeout of Bryce Harper.
ANOTHER FIRST FOR VENTERS
After enduring three Tommy John surgeries, Jonny Venters has had some epic milestones, like recording his first win and save in years. Wednesday afternoon he'll make his first career start.
"I'm excited," Venters said. "I'm going to treat it like I do every other outing, this time just happens to be in the first inning. Try to go out there and get some guys out. And that's about it. ... It'll be exciting.''
HE SAID IT
"I love the fans here." -- Wilson Ramos, on the Nationals fans after he received a nice ovation when he led off the second inning
Venters will get the nod on Wednesday when the Rays wrap up a two-game set with the Nationals in a 1:05 p.m. ET contest at Nationals Park. He enters the game with nine straight scoreless appearances. Right-hander Tanner Roark will start for the Nationals.
Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005.