D-backs stun Scherzer with three straight homers (Nats lose 6-5)

PHOENIX - Asked this afternoon what, if anything, has made Max Scherzer an even better pitcher in 2017 than he was when he won the Cy Young Award in 2016, Nationals manager Dusty Baker noted the right-hander's ability to reduce the number of home runs he has surrendered.

You can probably guess what happened next. Or maybe not, given how improbable it still was.

scherzer-pitching-gray-close-sidebar.jpgScherzer served up three home runs to the first three batters he faced at Chase Field, three towering shots by David Peralta, A.J. Pollock and Jake Lamb all in a span of 10 pitches to leave the Nats ace shellshocked.

Two more hits and a walk brought home a fourth run during a 37-pitch first inning for Scherzer, who continued to struggle when he returned to the mound for the bottom of the second. Pollock and Lamb each doubled to produce another run and give the Diamondbacks a 5-0 lead as fans continued to make their way into the ballpark.

The first-inning power barrage, though, is what has this place buzzing. And it'll be some time before anyone forgets this shocking start to a game.

It's the first time Scherzer has allowed three straight homers in his career, and it's the first time the Nationals have ever allowed three straight homers in club history.

It's the first time any major league team has opened a game with back-to-back-to-back home runs since the Orioles did it to the Rangers on May 10, 2012.

Home runs have always been one of Scherzer's few bugaboos - he led the majors with 31 homers allowed last season and still won his second Cy Young Award - but he had been much better in that department this season. The right-hander had surrendered only three homers to the last 245 batters he faced prior to tonight's barrage.

Update: Slowly but surely, Scherzer has found something that works and is salvaging this start. And slowly but surely, the Nats are clawing their way back into it. Scherzer has posted three straight zeroes since those disastrous first two innings, and he now has nine strikeouts on the night, with a pitch count of 98 that should permit him to return for the sixth. The lineup, meanwhile, got doubles from Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy in the fourth, then RBIs from Brian Goodwin and Ryan Raburn in the fifth. Put that all together, and you've got a 5-3 game heading to the sixth, with a whole lot of baseball left here tonight.

Update II: The Nats keep clawing, and they're doing it with clutch hits. Wilmer Difo delivered the team's third two-out RBI hit of the game with a single in the top of the sixth to score Murphy. So it's now 5-4, with the Nationals turning to their bullpen after Scherzer went five innings and 98 pitches. Joe Blanton and Matt Grace combined to put up a zero in the sixth. We'll see how Baker manages things from here.

Update III: Give the Nationals credit, cause they've come all the way back to tie this game. Difo delivered a run-scoring groundout in the top of the eighth, and so it's now 5-5 as Ryan Madson enters for the bottom of the inning.

Update IV: So much for an inspiring comeback. The Nats could only tie the game, then they lost it in the bottom of the ninth. With the heart of the Diamondbacks lineup due up, Enny Romero served up a leadoff triple to Pollock on a 100 mph high fastball. After intentionally walking both Lamb and Goldschmidt to load the bases, Romero got Gregor Blanco to loft a shallow fly ball for the first out. But he couldn't get Brandon Drury, who sent a 2-1 pitch through the right side of the infield for a walk-off single. Nats lose 6-5.

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