MIAMI (AP)This time, Max Scherzer didn’t come unbuckled.
The Nationals’ ace allowed one run in six innings and passed two umpire inspections without a fuss, helping Washington beat the Miami Marlins 5-1 on Sunday to earn a split of their four-game series.
Scherzer (7-4) struck out seven and lowered his ERA to 2.14. The three-time Cy Young Award winner, who threatened to disrobe when baseball began its crackdown on sticky substances, underwent two brief examinations at the end of innings and didn’t complain – at least not to the ump.
”He checked my hat, checked my glove, checked my belt,” Scherzer said with a frown. ”Whatever. Whatever.”
Scherzer has said the MLB crackdown has made it more difficult to grip and control pitches.
”Everybody is getting used to it,” he said. ”Everybody is having to deal with it. I’m not going to sit here and make excuses about it. Everybody has to play under these rules now.”
Helping Scherzer’s mood were opposite-field two-run homers by Trea Turner and Josh Bell in the sixth inning against Sandy Alcantara to break the game open.
”When you get two two-run shots — I don’t care about your solo shots, I want your two-run shots,” Scherzer said with a grin.
”A two-run lead is a big deal when he’s on the bump,” Turner said.
The score was 1-all in the sixth when Alcantara (4-7) unraveled. He walked Kyle Schwarber on four pitches to lead off, and Turner hit his 12th homer. Juan Soto reached on an infield hit, and Bell hit his 11th homer.
Alcantara, who allowed five runs in 5 1/3 innings, said he was fighting an illness and hadn’t slept well. It was the first time since last Aug. 30 that he gave up more than one homer in a game.
”I was battling, but I was missing a lot of pitches,” Alcantara said. ”They made adjustments in that last inning. I feel bad about it.”
The Nationals scored an unearned run in the first. Schwarber reached when his grounder was mishandled by third baseman Jon Berti, and he later came home on a two-out single by Josh Harrison.
Jazz Chisholm Jr. led off the Marlins’ first with a triple for the second game in a row, and he celebrated his slide into third with outstretched arms, a gesture of ”ta-da” to the crowd. He came home on Jesus Aguilar’s double.
”Max attacks the strike zone, and they’re going to come out swinging,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. ”After that he settled down, made his pitches and looked great.”
The Marlins managed only four hits the rest of the way against Scherzer and three relievers. They went 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position.
Washington won with six hits.
The Nationals (37-38), who are second in the NL East, face contending teams in their next 17 games.
”This is what you play for,” Scherzer said. ”You want to play the best teams in the game. This is where you find out about yourself.”
Scherzer has more wins versus the Marlins than against any other team, with a 15-5 record in 26 starts, including 2-0 in two starts this year.
Schwarber went without a hit for the second game in a row, dropping his average to .246. He has 13 homers in his past 16 games.
Nationals: CF Victor Robles bruised his knee when hit by a pitch in the seventh and limped off the field. His status is day to day. … RHP Stephen Strasburg (neck strain) is progressing in his rehabilitation and was scheduled to throw 25 pitches in a bullpen session Sunday.
Nationals: They open a seven-game homestand Monday night with a game against the New York Mets, a makeup resulting from an April 3 postponement. RHP Erick Fedde will miss his turn because of a mild oblique strain, and it will likely be a bullpen game for Washington.
Marlins: They open a three-game series at Philadelphia on Tuesday with LHP Trevor Rogers (7-4, 2.08) scheduled to start.
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