The Nationals’ formula for success recently has been solid starting pitching, coupled with a power-hitting lineup and a bullpen that has bent but not broke.
On Friday night, the Nats bounced back from being shut out in the series opener, dropping the Diamondbacks 7-3. The win snapped a two-game skid.
The ace tossed seven innings Friday night, allowing two solo homers on three hits with one walk and 10 strikeouts. It marked the 87th time in his career and fifth time this season he has struck out 10 or more batters in a game.
Scherzer (5-5) allowed solo homers to Carson Kelly and Nick Ahmed. But he also twice caught Ahmed with a strike three call and struck out Kelly in his next at-bat after going deep.
“He’s a pro. He knows what he’s doing,” catcher Kurt Suzuki said of Scherzer. “One of the things he likes to say is. ‘Solo shots don’t kill you,’ which is true unless you hit about six of them. He just goes right back on the horse.
“Those two solo homers, I take responsibility for that one. There’s a couple of things I could’ve done differently and we gave up solo homers, but then again, he bounces right back, strikes out the next guys and on we go.”
The homers were well-struck no-doubters by the Diamondbacks. But Scherzer demonstrated again how potential game-changing hits don’t faze him over the course of a start. Following Ahmed’s solo homer in the fifth, Scherzer bounced back to strike out Kelly and Robbie Ray.
“I don’t know, I don’t get too caught up in it,” Scherzer said. “For me, I’m just trying to execute pitches. Tonight, those two balls, I didn’t quite execute the pitch that I wanted to. Zuk and I are going over mid-game of what we should’ve done, how we want to attack those guys a bit differently. But for me, you don’t get caught up in results. You worry about the process, you worry about how you’re executing pitches and how you’re sequencing them together.
“I think that’s a huge thing of how you keep a hitter off-balance: Is what pitches do you sequence with and what their strengths and weaknesses are? So Zuk and I, we do a great job of doing our homework and finding how we want to work together.”
The Nats added runs with relentless offense, scoring with the help of sacrifice hits, stolen bases and home runs. They broke through against D-backs starter Ray in the third inning, scoring three runs.
“Yeah, it’s awesome,” Suzuki said of the various ways the Nats scored. “Take ‘em any way you can get them. You are going to go through stretches where you hit balls hard and you get outs. So any way you can get a run across the board, you take it.”
Robles’ RBI single and a Rendon sacrifice fly that scored Turner padded the lead to 7-2 in the seventh. The inning included an electrifying double steal by Michael A. Taylor and Turner.
Despite allowing a double and a walk, Sean Doolittle pitched a scoreless ninth to end the game. Nationals manager Davey Martinez was asked why he went with Doolittle in the ninth of a four-run game.
“He hadn’t pitched in five, six days,” Martinez said. “We were up four runs. Thought it would be a great time to just get him in the game. Rainey got hit in the calf and he was going to stiffen up a little bit and I thought it would be perfect to put Doo in the game. Can’t predict what’s going to happen tomorrow. Hopefully, we come out score 10 tomorrow. It was a good opportunity to get Doolittle in the game.”
Martinez reiterated that Rainey got hit “pretty good” in his calf, so the Nationals will monitor the reliever in the morning to see about his availability on Saturday.