Scherzer dominates, but once again plagued by home runs

ATLANTA - Seven innings of three-hit ball shouldn't be a footnote, but given everything else that happened during the Nationals' wild opening day victory over the Braves, Max Scherzer's impressive start did kind of get lost in the shuffle.

Let's give the man his due, though, because he pitched awfully well.

Scherzer looked very much like the guy who dominated most of last season, keeping the opposition from stringing together hits and walks, using his deep repertoire of pitches to strike out seven and giving manager Dusty Baker seven full innings on a manageable 104 pitches.

scherzer-pitching-front-gray-opening-day sidebar.jpg"I did a lot of things good today," he said. "I was sharp with the off-speed, and I was able to execute a lot of things, get a lot of popups."

At the same time, Scherzer did resemble his 2015 version in one negative way: He served up a pair of home runs, the one real bugaboo to his otherwise stellar debut season in Washington.

Freddie Freeman got him first, hammering a 2-2 fastball over the center field fence. Adonis Garcia got him later, whacking a flat, 0-2 slider well beyond the left field wall.

The Garcia homer came on a bad pitch. The Freeman blast? Not so much.

"Max only made one mistake, to Garcia," Baker said. "The pitch he made to Freddie ... sometimes the hitter just gets you. They're not always mistakes."

Scherzer had never faced Freeman (perhaps the most notable Nats killer of recent memory) before, so he went into the at-bat with a bit of uncertainty on how to attack him. He wound up falling behind in the count 2-0 via a high fastball and a low changeup, then started pumping fastballs in the strike zone.

Scherzer got Freeman to swing through a 96-mph heater, then another that clocked 97 mph. The count now 2-2, he decided to try to overpower the left-handed slugger one more time.

"I needed to see what he looked like on the fastball," he said. "So I put a fastball in. It was in, it was just thigh in. Obviously, he's good enough to be able to hit that ball out."

Scherzer did retire Freeman the other two times they faced in the game, striking him out in the fourth with a cutter down and in, then getting him to pop up in the sixth on a first-pitch fastball.

"We're going to have battles," the pitcher said. "That's our first time going at each other. We're seeing where we're at now. As we keep going and keep facing each other, we'll get more info on each other."

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