Swelling around the eye.
Seven Innings of shutout baseball?
No problem if you’re Max Scherzer.
One of those ailments would have been enough of an excuse for lesser pitchers to ask for the day off or skip a start.
Not Scherzer. Ever.
The right-hander kept the Phillies at arm’s length for 21 outs, allowing only four hits, as the Nationals completed the doubleheader sweep with a 2-0 win.
Brian Dozier smacked his second homer on the day to give the Nats the early lead in the nightcap. The veteran second baseman has played against Scherzer (6-5) a lot over the years, so he knew a broken nose or a black eye wasn’t going to slow him down.
“It’s probably one of the most impressive things,” Dozier said. “I can’t let him hear me. I can’t toot Max too much to his face, but it really is one of the most impressive things I’ve seen in a while.
“He’s probably the best pitcher in our generation, and you don’t get that status unless you take the ball every fifth day, no matter if you’re doing good, doing bad, got a broken nose. You always want the ball.”
With the win and the Mets’ loss, the Nationals (35-38) also moved into third place in the National League East standings for the first time since April 23.
“If you ignore the wins and losses and just look at how we played, we’re playing good baseball all the way around,” Scherzer said. “Starting pitchers are going deep. We’re handing the ball off late to the bullpen. Those guys are getting the job done. Our offense is finding so many different ways to score.
“They’re providing the run support that we need and we’re playing good defense. When you do that as a team, that’s what we’re most focused on is just playing good baseball as a whole. When we do that, we know we can play with anybody in this league and we know we can beat some teams, and the Phillies are definitely a quality team. For us to go out there and play the way we did, that’s a good team win.”
Scherzer has been on a roll since he fell to 2-5 on May 17, allowing only four earned runs in his last five starts. Even with the Nats’ slow start this season, Scherzer has put together 11 consecutive quality starts.
“His job is to throw every day,” Dozier continued. “Some guys run from that when they have hiccups or things aren’t going good or they aren’t feeling good, just to kind of sit on numbers or all that kind of stuff, but Max is a winner. That’s the only reason he comes to the ballpark: to win. When you have a guy like that at the front of your rotation, it’s pretty good.”
Scherzer had 10 strikeouts on 117 pitches tonight, marking the 88th time in his career he reached double digits in punchouts in a game, and the sixth time this season.
“Awesome. Max is Max,” said Nationals manager Davey Martinez. “He went out there and did what he’s supposed to do. He’s prepared. Him and (Kurt Suzuki) they have a game plan, they go out there and attack the game plan, and he was phenomenal. I didn’t think the eye thing was going to be an issue with the nose, and he proved it.”
Scherzer struck out four in a row bridging the fourth to the fifth inning. In the fifth inning, he dispatched the Phillies 1-2-3 on nine pitches.
He allowed an opening single by Jean Segura, a single to Brad Miller in the second, a single to Jay Bruce in the fourth on a dribbler up the third base line that died before Anthony Rendon could make a play, and a double for César Hernández in the seventh.
Scherzer said the nose never bothered him, even as ugly as it might have looked. He even appreciated the hot and humid conditions with a game time temperature of 85 degrees. He was pumped up because of the black eye, but the weather actually helped him to 98 mph on the fastball.
“It was nice and humid tonight,” Scherzer said. “The weather was the reason I was throwing hard. Anytime you’re pitching nice, kind of 80-degree, humid weather. That’s the best pitching weather you can ever be in. That’s what we had tonight, and when you get that weather like that, it makes it very easy to have a lot of energy on your fastball and you really don’t have to put too much energy into your fastball and it kind of jumps.”
The impact of the win and the doubleheader sweep shows in the standings with a move to third place in the division. But the Nats have also now won four of their last five games and lead the Phillies season series 6-4.
“It’s very tough,” Dozier said. “I don’t know how many times I’ve played a doubleheader in my career and I don’t know how many times, if any, if I’ve ever swept, so it’s huge. It’s tough to do that at this level. I don’t care who you are playing, because everything kind of has to go right for 18 innings.
“I guess a team that’s kind of going through some injuries and stuff so we needed that. Everything is going good right now. We still got one game tomorrow, but two games today is pretty good.”
Note: Erick Fedde will start for the Nationals Thursday night. Stephen Strasburg will start Friday’s series opener against the Atlanta Braves. Austin Voth was returned to Triple-A Fresno after the game.