Right-hander Max Scherzer was fairly satisfied with his start against the Giants except for not being able to win the individual battles with one hitter in particular.
Yes, you guessed it, that would be Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford.
Crawford singled, doubled and his two-run homer was all the offense needed in a 2-0 Giants series-clinching win Sunday over the Nationals.
“I threw good pitches to him,” Scherzer said. “He put great swings on them. He wins. I lose. It’s as simple as that. He’s hot. I have to be better than him. Today he was great. And tip your hat and move on.”
Crawford ended up going 4-for-4 with three extra base hits and two RBIs.
Crawford has been Major League Baseball’s hottest hitter since May 1, hitting .439 (58-for-132) with 16 doubles, six homers and 27 RBIs. It is the sixth time in his career he had four or more hits in a game.
Scherzer was also upset with the walk to Pablo Sandoval the started the top of the fourth. Crawford then took a 2-2 cutter and deposited into the right field stands. It was Crawford’s eight homer of the season.
“I hit a slider on the home run,” said Crawford. “I saw all of his pitches that at-bat. That’s one thing that makes him so good is that he has four-plus pitches. You have to worry about that the whole at-bat. So, I was kind of in battle mode from strike one and just tried to stay short and see something over the plate and fortunately I was able to get to that one.”
It was the third time this season Scherzer had surrendered a homer on his cutter/slider. Does he think that opponents have solved that pitch?
“It’s always evolving,” Scherzer said. “The league’s making an adjustment on it. Last year I felt like I held the advantage over the league on how I executed that pitch. Right now, they’re putting good swings on it. I just got to find a way to execute a little better and find better locations. Some hitters in the league right now, it’s always been a dangerous pitch to kind of throw a slider into a lefty. I just got to sharpen it up just a tad because it’s still a good pitch. I just got to execute better with it.”
Scherzer knows what to do to adjust the pitch, but he was not going to give away trade secrets in a post game interview.
“I got ideas,” Scherzer said. “I know how I can make that pitch better.”
But despite those pitches to Crawford, Scherzer still felt like he was making progress.
“I was still attacking the zone,” Scherzer said of how the game evolved. “First pitch strikes were there. But the walks, Pablo, he’s always hitting well. I had to make good pitches against him. Unfortunately, I fell behind in some counts. You walk him and then Crawford hits a bomb, that’s how quickly it can happen. Especially how they’re playing.”
Scherzer’s offense did not help to prevent the loss. Despite allowing only two runs on four hits in seven innings, Scherzer took only his second loss in 12 decisions this season. The Nats were unable to solve the Giants Derek Holland, who gave up only three hits in five scoreless frames.
“Two runs, that can be the difference in a game, and it was,” Scherzer said. “That just shows you how fine of a line it is when you’re playing a hot team like they are. They’re playing great baseball. They’re getting it done on the mound. They’re getting it done in the pen and offensively. I knew it would be a battle. I knew it would be a grind. They did their job today. They won the series. Tip your hat and move on.”
Nats manager Davey Martinez said the offense has got to do better than they did Sunday. Despite back-to-back singles to begin the second inning, the offense was never able to get any other rally ignited to support Scherzer.
“We couldn’t get nothing going,” Martinez said. “I mean, really, Holland threw pretty good. Mixed his pitches up well. Just couldn’t get really nothing going. Max pitches really well. He made one mistake, but (we) got to score runs to win.