PHOENIX - He pitched eight strong innings, given a chance to stay on the mound longer than most modern starters might, given the situation. And he also delivered the two-run single that proved the margin of difference for most of the game.
Needless to say, it was Max Scherzer's afternoon at Chase Field, and the rest of the Nationals just went along for the ride en route to an 8-3 victory over the Diamondbacks that completed a series sweep.
Scherzer allowed just four hits and struck out 11 over his eight innings of work, surrendering a pair of solo homers but otherwise controlling the game with power and precision. And he made the pitching performance pay off thanks to his contributions at the plate, which highlighted a three-run top of the sixth during which the Nationals took the lead for good.
Trea Turner and Daniel Murphy also homered for the Nationals, who after splitting series in Cleveland and San Francisco took all three games in Arizona to complete a successful, 6-3 road trip. They'll head home 20 games over .500 and now lead the National League East by seven games with exactly one-third of the regular season left to play.
Scherzer's afternoon began in uncharacteristic fashion - he walked the leadoff man on five pitches - but it quickly morphed into his usual pitching clinic. The right-hander retired 12 in a row after that and entered the fifth inning having yet to surrender a hit.
The Diamondbacks did finally break through in the fifth, scoring their first run of the day via a double, a wild pitch and an odd play in which a drawn-in infield forced Bryce Harper to come charging all the way in from right field to try to catch a popup just beyond the infield dirt. He couldn't get there, and so a run scored.
Scherzer gave up another run in the sixth in more conventional fashion, when Jake Lamb launched a solo homer into the pool area beyond the right field wall. And Yasmany Tomas pounced on a first-pitch curveball in the seventh for another home run, the 24th Scherzer has allowed in 23 starts this season.
But the Nationals lineup had an answer for the long balls, and one of those answers came from Scherzer himself.
Turner and Murphy accounted for the club's first two runs, each clubbing solo homers, Turner's first of the year and Murphy's 21st of the year. The biggest hit, though, came in the top of the sixth from Scherzer, who with two outs and the bases loaded, roped an 0-2 pitch from Zack Godley back up the middle to bring home two runs.
Mark Melancon was prepared to enter the bottom of the ninth in his first save situation since joining the Nationals over the weekend, but his teammates scored four insurance runs in the top of the inning to turn this into another rout. Melancon still closed it out in what became a non-save situation.