Sure, Scherzer can pitch, but have you seen him hit?

Max Scherzer makes the strikeout look commonplace and expected.

For the 12th time in 23 starts this season, Scherzer struck out 10 or more hitters. Behind another workmanlike performance from Scherzer, the Nationals dropped the Reds 10-4 to open the four-game series and win their third in a row.

Scherzer (15-5) has struck out 10 or more batters 76 times in his career and 12 times so far this season.

His pitch count did get up there: 110 pitches over six innings, with 77 strikes. Scherzer lasted six innings, allowing only two runs on four hits with two walks and 10 strikeouts.

Scherzer-Determined-Delivery-White-Sidebar.jpgNo big deal, right? It is amazing to think that Scherzer getting to 10-plus strikeouts feels almost every day he makes it look that easy.

But the true value of Scherzer in the National League as an all-around Cy Young winner and potential MVP candidate could be measured in his ability to hit.

He connected with a run-scoring single in the second. Scherzer was a major part of the six-run second inning uprising that supplied the Nats with a comfortable lead they would never relinquish.

Scherzer admitted afterward that he was challenged by the hitting coach Kevin Long to do something positive with a man on third base.

"K-Long before the game challenged me - he said I was 0-for-6 with runners on third base," Scherzer said. "He got me fired up that, hey, if i get that situation, I've got to get the job done. I've got to find a way to get the hit. He just talked enough trash to me, and I hate when people talk trash to me, so I just got to go out and do something about it."

The right-hander wasn't done at the plate. While he put up zeros on the scoreboard during the first three innings, Scherzer laid down a pair of sacrifice bunts that moved runners into scoring position in his next two at-bats in the third and fifth innings.

How good is Scherzer in the batter's box? Just ask the Nats other hitting heroes Thursday night.

Center fielder Bryce Harper, who went 2-for-3 with a single, homer, two walks and two RBIs, can appreciate a starting pitcher who rakes like Scherzer does.

"He's an all-around pretty dang good pitcher and same thing as a hitter," Harper said. "He works at it every single day. He's down there in the cage swinging, grinding away, and you got to respect that because a lot of pitchers don't go down there to work out and do the things they can to get better in there.

"So he does a great job for us right there. That's a huge at-bat in that nine spot. For him to be able to get on base and get guys over, that changed the ballgame for us."

Shortstop Trea Turner noticed the same thing. Turner had a two-run single and a two-run homer, but said the offensive contributions by Scherzer in this game and throughout the season do not get overlooked.

"I looked up and saw he was hitting .290 and I was like, jeez," Turner said. "It does feel like every time he gets up he gets a hit, too. But he works at it. He's one of the ones that takes it very seriously and wants to win that battle up at the plate. He did a great job tonight of bunting as well. If you work at it, you can be good at it."

Scherzer recognizes that his value first is as a starting pitcher. But if he can keep an inning alive with his bat, then that makes his job, and his team's job, much easier.

"Just been getting in the cage and just working with our coaches," Scherzer said. "K-Long and (assistant hitting coach) Joe (Dillon), they do a great job. They really try to dial in and find a way to help figure out a way for me to be competitive at the plate. Anytime I can compete at the plate, I feel like that always helps the ballclub. When I can turn that lineup over and you got the top of the lineup coming back on through, that makes it really tough on the opposing pitcher.

"Because everybody looks at the pitcher as a free out, and when you're not an out and you find a way to get on base, it really does a number for the rest of the team. It puts everybody in situations where they're at their best. Tonight, we saw that. Adam (Eaton), Trea, they all did great things there to help blow open the game there in the second. It's a credit to everybody. This is a team sport. Everybody does their job, and when everybody does their job, we can win ballgames."

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