Rapid Reaction: Washington Nationals Rebound on Stellar Mad Max Performance


The Washington Nationals took the field against the Cincinnati Reds yesterday, less than 24 hours after what may be the lowest point in this franchise’s young history. With the choking incident between Jonathan Papelbon and Bryce Harper still fresh in everyone’s memories, the Nats looked to salvage some pride against a Reds team that has had their number all season.

In order to do just that, the Nationals sent their $210 million dollar man to the mound in Max Scherzer and he was nothing short of brilliant. Max took a no-hitter into the eighth inning, but finished the night with a two hit, ten strikeout, one earned run performance. His fastball was excellent along with a dominating changeup and plus breaking pitches. When Mad Max pitches like that, he is, quite literally, unhittable and he led his team to a 5-1 victory Monday evening.

In light of an excellent performance by Max Scherzer, and to add some positive thinking amidst the negative press, I thought I would focus on the good things I saw from the game that could carry over into the 2016 season.

First and foremost, Scherzer was lights out. He may not end up being worth the $210 million dollar price tag in his 2021 season, but he can be a no-hit guy every night and that is extremely valuable. In addition, in a clubhouse that desperately needs leadership, he can be that guiding veteran voice that helps set the tone for a winning franchise.

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The only negative line I will write about Max is this: he is not going to be able to overpower hitters much longer and needs to be a bit smarter later in games. We have all seen Max’s “closer mode” when he reaches back and just pummels the zone late in games. This works because he can touch 98, but he won’t have that type of velocity later in his career. We have also seen that approach fail him this year, see Manny Machado‘s homer from his last start. I love that attitude, but Max shook off Wilson Ramos three times before going with a fastball he left right over the plate to end his no-hit bid. Small complaint, but it could be a larger issue later in his career.

Second, the Nationals are going to be a fast team next year and I love it. Trea Turner should get the start at short the rest of the way and he is a terror on the base paths. If he can get on base anywhere above .350 next year, then he will be a huge asset to this ball club. He had a good afternoon as he went 1-for-3 with a walk. Add in Michael Taylor, who should get his strikeouts under control soon, and you have two burners on the bases.

Third, I think that Nats are going to be fine when it comes to bench players next year. Matt den Dekker had another great game to continue his great week going 3-for-4 with two doubles. Tyler Moore seems to have found his swing and Clint Robinson has been solid all year. The Nats may need another regular starter, maybe a big outfield bat, but the bench should be fine next year.

The Nationals are out of the playoffs and coming off an embarrassing 24 hours, but they showed they still have grit and there is still a good roster here with something to look forward to for next year.

Next: Recap: Scherzer Dominant In Home Finale Against Reds

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