Scherzer and Harper provide relentless assault for Nats

What more can you say about what Max Scherzer has brought to this Nationals team? Last night, Scherzer struck out a season-high 13 in holding the Cubs scoreless through seven innings. Scherzer was stalking around the mound all night as his intensity was on full display, as well as his full repertoire of pitches.

“You never really know what you’re gonna get,” Ian Desmond said on “Nats Xtra” after the game. “It keeps you off balance even more. I mean, he’s got essentially eight pitches. He throws his slider for a strike and throws it for a ball. He throws his changeup for a strike and a ball. He throws 92 to 98 (mph). He’s got a sinker also. It just adds so many pitches to the arsenal.”

Scherzer-Head-On-Road.jpgScherzer is now 6-3 in 10 starts this season, and the Nats also won the lone outing in which he didn’t receive a decision. His 85 strikeouts are the best in baseball, and he’s only walked 10 in 71 2/3 innings. Scherzer’s 12 total earned runs in his 10 outings places him fourth among big league starters with a 1.51 ERA.

“He’s a pretty good pitcher,” Nationals manager Matt Williams said to reporters after the game. “He’s got a real good plan for everybody that he faces. He’s diligent about it. He takes time to work on it. And he’s got extra gears that a lot of people don’t have. So we saw that. He threw one fastball at 98 (mph), for crying out loud. So when he needs to reach back, he can do it. He’s a pretty good pitcher.”

The guy opposing Scherzer wasn’t too bad either. In a game featuring the two most sought after free agent pitchers of the offseason, the Cubs’ Jon Lester lost out, but not by much. Lester was only charged with one earned run, Bryce Harper’s solo bomb, as he also reached double digits in strikeouts with 10.

“Obviously, Max threw the ball just a little bit better than I did,” Lester said to reporters after the game. “It was fun though. Obviously, we lost and that’s not the ultimate goal. But if you’re a purist of the game and like watching pitching matchups ... that was fun. That was what it kinda lived up to be.”

Scherzer and Lester dueled all night. The Nats were able to manufacture an unearned run off Lester in the fourth and then in the sixth, Harper unleashed his 18th homer on an opposite field shot to extend the lead.

“I made one mistake ,and when you’re going against a guy like him, you can’t make any,” Lester said to reporters after the game. “He’s just really good.”

Lester, who starred for two world championship teams during his nine years in Boston, told reporters that Harper possesses some of the same unique hitting talents as great Red Sox sluggers Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz.

“He has power to all fields and that’s what makes him so dangerous is you can’t just play to pull or whatever,” Lester said to reporters. “You just have to try and make pitches down and hopefully he beats it in the ground. If he gets a hit, he gets a hit. You move on.”

Before the game, it was announced that Harper leads all players in the National League fan vote for this year’s All-Star Game. Just 47 games into the season, Harper is just four away from his reaching his career high in homers that he achieved his rookie season when he hit 22 in 139 contests.

The Nats and Harper will have to wait a few more days until Harper is named the Player of the Month, but it seems to be a lock. Try to comprehend his slash line in the 24 games during May: .375/.500/.938 with an astronomical 1.438 OPS. Harper has smashed 13 homers, delivered 28 RBIs and scored 20 runs this month. Nobody has more RBIs in the big leagues this season than Harper at 43, and last night’s homer evened the 22-year-old with Seattle’s Nelson Cruz for the most in the majors.

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