Max Scherzer has been inconsistent at times this season, and that inconsistency doomed the Washington Nationals in last night’s loss to the Cardinals.
Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer has struggled at times during his second season with the team. He got off to a slow start early on in 2016 and then turned things around, but there have been plenty of ups and downs along the way.
For the Nationals, it’s never really clear which Scherzer will show up on the mound during any given start; the Scherzer who only throws strikes and is capable of striking out 20 batters in one game, or the Scherzer who has problems locating his pitches and struggles to keep the ball in the park.
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It’s easy to know when Scherzer is on his game. When he’s at his best, the right-hander locates his pitches flawlessly, rarely walks anyone, and piles up strikeout after strikeout.
Last night, it was clear early on that Scherzer wasn’t on his game.
The veteran right-hander walked the very first batter he faced. In the second inning, he walked the leadoff hitter again. And while Scherzer survived both frames without surrendering a run, his early walks signaled trouble ahead — and trouble came just an inning later.
In the top of the third inning, Scherzer allowed a one-out single to Jaime Garcia. He then issued yet another walk — once again to Cardinals leadoff hitter Greg Garcia — which put two runners on for Aledmys Diaz, who singled to load the bases for Matt Holliday. In very un-Scherzer fashion, the right-hander then walked Holliday to give the Cardinals a gift-wrapped, 1-0 lead.
Of course, what happened next caused irreparable damage for the Nationals. After walking in a run, Scherzer surrendered a grand slam to Stephen Piscotty to give the Cardinals a 5-0 lead.
Scherzer has few weaknesses, but they were on full display in a forgettable third inning for the Nationals. And while it was Piscotty’s blast that ultimately sealed the victory for the Cardinals, it was those early walks and a general lack of command from Scherzer that doomed the Nationals.
It’s important to note that Scherzer dominated the rest of the way. After surrendering the homer, the right-hander retired the last 14 batters he faced.
Unfortunately for the Nationals, the damage had been done, and the offense wasn’t able to give Scherzer the run support he needed.