Washington Nationals: Max Scherzer Shows Off Ace Mentality In Atlanta

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Apr 18, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Max Scherzer (31) delivers a pitch to an Atlanta Braves batter in the third inning at SunTrust Park. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 18, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Max Scherzer (31) delivers a pitch to an Atlanta Braves batter in the third inning at SunTrust Park. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports /
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Max Scherzer had his ace stuff last night in Atlanta as the Washington Nationals hung on to win the series opener over the Atlanta Braves

Last night, the Washington Nationals bullpen nearly coughed up another game in Atlanta against the Braves. But, despite home plate umpire C.B. Bucknor making Shawn Kelley throw another pitch, the Nats found a way to get a win against a team that had won five straight games coming in.

Sure, the offense played its part in the win due to RBI’s from Wilmer Difo, Adam Eaton, and Ryan Zimmerman. But, the story of the night was Max Scherzer. The Washington Nationals ace worked harder than you would want a pitcher to work in late April, but he got the job done.

Scherzer went seven innings, gave up two hits, struck out seven, and walked three on 116 pitches (76 strikes) as he picked up his second win of the season. In his three seasons with the Nats, this was just the second time that the right-hander has thrown more than 110 pitches in an April start (April 26, 2016 against Philadelphia).

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If there was one inning the Braves had a chance against Scherzer, it was the fourth. Atlanta got the first two runners on base after the Nats took a 2-0 lead in the top half of the frame. But, Scherzer battled and eventually got Adonis Garcia to ground into an inning ending double play.

Looking at the numbers, Scherzer had the most success with his slider last night. According to Brooks Baseball, 26 of the 33 sliders that he threw were for strikes. Also, five of his seven strikeouts came via that pitch.

For more on last night’s game and the bad umpiring, check out our DoDcast postgame show hosted by my fellow co-editor, Ron Juckett:

When Scherzer has all his pitches working, he is fun to watch. But, it’s more interesting to watch him fight to stay in the game. Despite being at 101 pitches after six innings, he convinced Dusty Baker to keep him in the game and he ended up throwing a 1-2-3 seventh.

With the way the bullpen has pitched lately, it made sense for Scherzer to want to stay in the ball game and pick up the win. The relievers had a terrible series against the Phillies and the team is still searching for answers at closer after another bad performance from Blake Treinen last night.

Since coming to the Nats before the 2015 season, Scherzer has earned every cent of his huge contract and it’s because of the attitude he brings to the mound every fifth day. Last night, he had the dominant pitches, but he had the mental edge as well. This is the comparison Ron gave to the expression he had at one point in the game:

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You can understand that the Braves could view this series as an opportunity to make a statement against a team that dominated them last season. It’s just one start, but the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner showed why he has just as good a chance to win the award again in 2017.

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