Washington Nationals Rapid Reaction: It’s All About The Home Run

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The Washington Nationals played the third game of their series with the Miami Marlins Wednesday afternoon. Each team had won one game of the series, so the third game would decide which team won this series.

Usually after a Scherzer start, the discussion would be all about a great pitching performance. However, Bryce Harper stole the show with three home runs in his first three at-bats against Miami pitcher Tom Koehler. Giancarlo Stanton made the game close with a three run homer of his own in the eighth inning, which he hit off Scherzer.

Everybody Loves The Long Ball

Harper hit three home runs in this game in his first three at-bats, all off Miami starter Tom Koehler. The first was a solo shot which he hit off the wall of the Miami bullpen in the second inning. The distance was estimated at 404 feet.

Harper then hit a three run blast into the upper deck in right (section 240), a titanic shot that gave the Nats a 4-2 lead. The distance on this homer was estimated at 431 feet. Bryce came up again in the bottom of the fifth and hit another mammoth upper deck shot to right, putting the Nats up 5-2. The ball landed in section in 240 again. The crowd insisted on a curtain call, and Harper complied. The estimated distance on the third home run was 441 feet.

Stanton added another home run to the day, a blast to left that had a distance estimated at 427 feet. There were two on in the eighth inning when Stanton hit his homer, cutting what was a comfortable 7-2 lead for the Nats to 7-5 and chasing Scherzer from the game.

Harper had five RBI on the day, a career high for him. What was really interesting about Harper’s home runs is that he was making adjustments at the plate each time. After he hit the first home run, he realized he wasn’t going to see that pitch again (the low inside pitch) and was looking for what he got to hit the second home run, which was a high fastball.

After the second home run, he eliminated that pitch too and was not looking for a fastball. He was looking for a changeup and that’s what he got when he hit the third home run. That was impressive.

More from Max Scherzer

Scherzer Has An Interesting Outing

Max Scherzer had two difficult innings. In between those two innings, there were five innings of brilliance. Max cruised through the first inning, giving up a single to Martin Prado and nothing else.

In the second inning, the Marlins hitters clearly came up with the strategy of swinging early against Scherzer, not wanting him to get to two strikes on them. It worked. Justin Bour singled to start the inning, J.T. Realmuto doubled early in the count, Ichiro Suzuki singled early in the count to drive in Bour, and Adeiny Hechavarria singled to score Realmuto. Four batters, four hits. The Marlins had scored two runs, had two on and nobody out.

The Nats defense finally bailed Scherzer out instead of costing him runs. Koehler tried to bunt. He sent it to the first base side. Ryan Zimmerman charged in, threw the ball to Ian Desmond at second, who threw the ball to Danny Espinosa covering first base for the double play. Scherzer got Dee Gordon to strike out to end the inning.

Scherzer allowed no other runs in innings three through seven. He pitched very well, only allowing two hits in the middle innings. Scherzer has been pitching long enough that he figured out the Marlins strategy and then used it against them, not throwing too many first or second pitch fastballs for strikes and making the Marlins hitters chase more offspeed stuff.

However, Scherzer ran into trouble in the eighth inning. He started the inning having thrown 101 pitches and he was clearly out of gas. He gave up singles to Dee Gordon and Martin Prado. Up came Giancarlo Stanton, who did what he does best, hitting that three run home run to make the score 7-5 and make the game close again. Scherzer left the game having gotten no outs in the eighth and giving way to Tanner Roark.

The Nationals finally score a bunch of runs for Scherzer and he almost gives them all back.

Let’s Talk About That Eighth Inning

Of course we can speculate about several things seeing how the eighth inning unfolded. Should Scherzer been sent out to pitch the eighth? Probably not. He had already thrown 101 pitches. In July and when your pitchers are stretched out, maybe you do that. In the beginning of May, probably not.

Should the Nats have been more prepared for Scherzer to need to come out and have a reliever ready when he got into trouble? Yes. Roark was not ready to come in after Scherzer gave up the singles to Gordon and Prado. He was rushing to get ready after the Gordon single, but he wasn’t ready to come in when Stanton came to the plate. Scherzer had to face Stanton, and we know what happened.

Should the Nats have walked Stanton to load the bases in that situation? My gut says no, not with no outs, but it’s debatable. Stanton can hurt you for three runs if he is batting, but loading the bases with no one out could lead to a bigger inning than just three runs, especially if you are now asking a reliever to come into a game in a bases loaded situation with no outs. That would have been a tough situation for Roark.

The Bullpen Makes It Interesting

Tanner Roark came into the game to try to hold the line and keep the Nationals potential win in place. When Roark came into the game in the eighth, it was almost like starting the inning from the beginning for him because there were no outs and no one on the bases.

Roark got Marcel Ozuna to ground out, but gave up back to back singles to Bour and Realmuto. He bore down to get a strike out of Suzuki–which has not been easy for any Nationals pitcher to do this year. Roark then got Hechavarria to ground into a fielder’s choice to end the Miami chance to add on any more runs. Roark got the hold, not without some drama.

Drew Storen pitched the top of the ninth for the save. Drew made it interesting again. He hit the first batter, Donovan Solano, and then Gordon singled to put the tying run on base. Prado flied out for the first out. Stanton then came to the plate with the chance to drive in more runs. By now, Drew had the feel for his slider and he did a masterful job pitching to Stanton, getting him to strike out. Storen did the same to Ozuna and the Nats fans could celebrate Harper’s three run day and another Washington win.

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