Scherzer, bullpen find way to hold off late Marlins rally for 5-4 win (updated)

On a day the Nationals announced that one of their aces, Stephen Strasburg, is out for the season because he needs surgery on his right hand, Max Scherzer battled for 4 2/3 innings against a feisty Marlins lineup in the first game of a doubleheader at Nats Park.

Thanks to their bullpen, highlighted by a timely strikeout from reliever Kyle Finnegan, the Nats found a way to hold on for a nail-biting, 5-4 win.

The Nats managed to score five runs on six hits in the game, highlighted by two runs and a double for Trea Turner and a 2-for-2 day with an RBI for Josh Harrison. The Nats scored two in the first, one in the third, and two in the third.

The Nats also got some good news before the game as designated hitter Howie Kendrick returned to the lineup for the first time in over a week. He walked, scored a run, and hit a sacrifice fly for an RBI in three plate appearances.

Scherzer-Set-vs-COL-White-Sidebar.jpgDespite throwing a ton of pitches, Scherzer look good early on, managing to get through four frames allowing only two hits. But leading 5-0, he almost gave it all away. With two outs in the top of the fifth, the Marlins put together a huge rally, scoring four runs on five hits.

Matt Joyce cranked a two-run shot, Jonathan Villar added a run-scoring single and rookie Jesús Sánchez forced a bases-loaded walk to cut the Nats' advantage down to 5-4.

Scherzer hit Brian Anderson with a pitch to load the bases prior to the Sánchez at-bat. Manager Davey Martinez was convinced to stay with Scherzer despite the triple-digit pitch count. Leading 5-3, Martinez let Scherzer stay, and he walked Sánchez to trim the lead to one, which was way too close for comfort.

"I just know I still had plenty in the tank in that situation," Scherzer said during a postgame Zoom video call. "I understand my pitch count is up. He did the right job coming out and checking on me, making sure that I was good to go. I train for those situations, I have had success in those situations. The fact that there were a couple of times where I haven't had success doesn't mean I'm going to continue to have failure in this situation.

"I believe I can pitch in tough spots in the game, even late in the game, even when my pitch count is above 100. I still believe I can execute in those situations. Unfortunately, the past couple of games I haven't done that, and I need to get better at that."

Finnegan came in with the bases loaded and the go-ahead run at second base. He was able to strike out Jorge Alfaro to preserve the lead. That one out would also earn him the win.

Scherzer had to throw 108 pitches, 67 for strikes, to record 14 outs. He gave up four runs on seven hits with two walks and five strikeouts. He threw a wild pitch and also hit a batter.

"Pitch count was a little high coming in, but was able to avoid any damage in the early part of the game," Scherzer said. "In the fifth inning, there was a couple of batters where had some bad locations on, and another couple of times I didn't hit my spot and they were able to just get a hit and able to continue to extend the inning.

"When it got down to really need an out with Anderson and Sánchez, I just wasn't able to get the job done. I wasn't able to locate. That's on me."

In the top of the first inning, Scherzer had a hot shot off the bat of Jesús Aguilar ricochet off his right shoulder and roll toward the second baseman Harrison, who was able to retrieve the carom and throw to first for the third out.

All eyes were on Scherzer as he returned to the dugout and had a quick discussion with director of athletic training Paul Lessard. The good news early on was that Scherzer was OK. On a day that started a little bit gloomy, this was certainly welcome news.

"Thankfully, it was a glancing blow and I am more happy that it didn't hit me in the head," Scherzer said. "That ball was coming right back at me. Fortunately, I was able to turn. It caught me on the backside of the shoulder and fortunate enough, it was glancing enough that didn't really leave too big of a welt. I was able to kind of keep it loose and I was able to still pitch on it, still able to get through the ball, so you just continue to march on."

Finnegan, Tanner Rainey and Daniel Hudson combined to twirl 2 1/3 innings of shutout ball to get the Nats the victory, their 10th of the season. It was Hudson's sixth save of the season.

Scherzer also had some words of encouragement for Strasburg, who is expected to undergo surgery early next week and be done for the season.

"It's just disappointing news," Scherzer said. "You feel for him because you know how hard he works. Everybody works so hard, especially in the shutdown. You want to be able to get out here and be able to pitch. When you get that taken away from you, it is a gut punch. It is a gut punch for a team, but I know specifically for Stephen it's not a fun thing to have to go through. I wish him the best. Hopefully, this is a surgery he can get through good and makes him good to go whenever he can get back on the mound."

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