WASHINGTON (AP) — Max Scherzer took another step toward returning to All-Star form, reached another milestone and helped the Washington Nationals get back on track in their pursuit of a playoff berth.
Scherzer struck out eight to notch 200 for an eighth straight season, Kurt Suzuki homered and drove in four runs and Washington cruised past the Baltimore Orioles 8-4 on Wednesday night.
Scherzer allowed two runs and six hits over 4 1/3 innings in his second start since missing a month with a strained back. Although he didn’t factor in the decision, the right-hander moved closer to becoming fully healthy and remained unbeaten since May 17.
“Obviously, we had a pitch count on him, but typical Max, he gave us what he had,” manager Dave Martinez said. “I felt toward the end he was getting a little tired, but that’s part of building back up.”
Hall of Famer Tom Seaver is the only pitcher in major league history with nine successive 200-strikeout seasons. Scherzer’s streak is alone in second place.
The Nationals can’t afford to lose Scherzer again, not when they’re clinging to the NL wild card lead and still in striking distance of Atlanta in the NL East.
Scherzer knows it, too.
“We’re at the point in the season where there’s no room for error,” the 35-year-old said. “I cannot get hurt. I understand that. That’s why I’m going out there pitching under control. I’m not going to put my body in jeopardy.”
Wander Suero (5-7) followed Scherzer and got Trey Mancini to hit into a double play to end the fifth.
It was the sixth win in seven games for the Nationals, who have surged into contention behind a robust offense that leads the NL in runs scored this month.
Limited to four hits while being blanked in the series opener Tuesday, the Nationals quickly returned to form, scoring five runs on five hits in the first inning against Asher Wojciechowski (2-7).
Adam Eaton was struck below the right knee by a pitch and Anthony Rendon doubled before Juan Soto hit a liner off the center-field wall for a two-run triple. Asdrubal Cabrera followed with an RBI single and Suzuki sent a 2-0 fastball into the left-field seats.
And just like that, the Nationals were back on track.
“This is about attacking in a game, scoring first,” Martinez said. “That’s been our message. They came out today, and that first inning was good.”
Not so much for the Orioles.
“Tough to be down by five against Scherzer early and try to scratch your way back,” manager Brandon Hyde said.
Eaton left the game after limping to third on Rendon’s hit, and was hurting afterward.
“He says he’s real sore,” Martinez said. “X-rays were negative, so he’s going to be day-to-day.”
Suzuki added a two-run double in the fifth for an 8-2 lead.
Chance Sisco homered and struggling Chris Davis finally hit his 10th of the season for the Orioles, who settled for a split of the four-game season series between neighboring rivals.
Washington leadoff hitter Trea Turner went 0 for 5, ending his career-best run of reaching base in 33 straight games.
Nationals: Closer Sean Doolittle (right knee tendinitis) threw 16 pitches during a simulated game and will be re-evaluated Thursday. … LHP Roenis Elías (left hamstring strain) also threw a simulated game and is on track to return from the injured list Friday if there are no issues. … 1B Matt Adams suffered a bruised knee while getting hit by a pitch Tuesday. He didn’t start but pinch hit in the fifth. … 1B Ryan Zimmerman (plantar fasciitis) played nine innings for Class A Potomac on Wednesday.
Orioles: LHP John Means, who’s on the family medical emergency list, should be back to face Kansas City on Friday or Saturday, Hyde said. … Veteran Mark Trumbo went 2 for 5 with a homer and 3 RBIs in his second rehabilitation game with Triple-A Norfolk after going deep on Tuesday. Trumbo has yet to play this season while recovering from right knee surgery. He previously abandoned a rehab stint with Norfolk because of knee pain, but hopes this time will be different and that he can join the Orioles next month.
Elías, who was injured running out a grounder on Aug. 2 in his first appearance with Washington, has a good plan for avoiding any more pain on the bases. “That’s prohibited for me anymore,” Elías said via a translator. “So if they want to throw three straight fastballs down the middle, go ahead. I’ll take all of them.”
Nationals: Washington is off Thursday for the second time in four days. Martinez has not named a starting pitcher for Friday’s opener of a three-game series against visiting Miami.
Orioles: After an off day Thursday, Baltimore faces Kansas City on the road Friday night to open a three-game series involving the teams with the second- and third-worst records in the majors.
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