Naturally it’s the Nats: Scherzer not the one to surrender momentum to the struggling Giants

May 31, 2017

MLB, San Francisco Giants


National’s Ryan Zimmerman circling the bases after his three-run, first inning home run off Matt Cain at AT&T Park on Wednesday night. (AP/Eric Risberg)

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–Representing varying degrees of pressure, the 3-0 deficits the Giants faced in each game of their just concluded series with the Nationals said it all about being down, and not being let up.  Those significant, but normally surmountable leads said plenty about the current acumen and confidence of the Nats, versus the increasing lethargy enveloping the Giants as well.

On Monday, the Nats built their 3-0 lead in the eighth inning. Perhaps the rare, cross country flight between day games on consecutive days delayed the NL East leader’s impending takeover by an hour or so.  On Tuesday, the Nats built their 3-0 lead after two innings.  On Wednesday, they built the lead after the first four batters of the game, capped by red-hot Ryan Zimmerman’s three run homer.

Term the series pressure, followed by pressure packed, followed by pressure filled, with Max Scherzer, Washington’s Wednesday night starter, providing much of the later. Consequently, the Giants never looked comfortable at any point.

We did say they’re different levels to this game.

Scherzer, bouyed by Giants’ hitters anxious to avoid deep counts when facing one of MLB’s most dominate pitchers, cruised to a 3-1 victory, holding the Giants without a hit until the fourth, and only surrendering five hits in a complete game performance that was breezy, if not brief.

“We got a break with one run or we’d probably get shut out, to be honest,” manager Bruce Bochy said.  “He’s done that to a lot of clubs.”

Former Giant’s manager Dusty Baker saw his win total as a big league manager reach 1,799, one win from a milestone reached by just 16 others. Baker’s gameplan for the occasion was brutally simple: ride his ace to the finish, if possible, in the absence of closer Koda Glover, who was unavailable due to a heavy workload in recent games. The result was a spectacular success; Scherzer finished off the Giants with 100 pitches, 79 of those strikes, and he retired the first hitter in every inning. Baker’s seen it all, but sounded giddy when asked about his ace.

“The difference was, he was getting strike one,”  Baker said. “Who out there can deal the way he was dealing? Boy, that was masterful.”

While Scherzer dealt, Washington’s hitters extracted every pitch out of Matt Cain, just as they sucked every pitch out of Jeff Samardzija the day before. Somehow, Cain kept it close despite throwing 80 pitches in the first four innings, but it mattered little as the Nationals’ completed the sweep, their eighth win in their last 11 games.

Bryce Harper saw his suspension reduced from four games to three, and began serving it immediately.  That left the Nats down an MVP candidate, and it hardly mattered. Trea Turner and Anthony Rendon had two hits apiece, and seven of the Nationals’ nine hits came in the first four innings. On Tuesday, 13 of the Nats’ 14 hits came in the first five innings.

“Everybody had their fingers on this,” Scherzer said.

Once again, the Giants got caught marching in place offensively. Only in the fourth inning did they manage to couple hits, and that entailed two Washington outfielders failing to catch Busted Posey’s fly ball that fell between them when Jayson Werth and Michael Taylor both lost the ball in the lights. Posey’s ball was ruled a double scoring Eduardo Nunez.

The Giants finished 2-4 on their homestand, and were twice shut out before scoring just one run Wednesday. They fell 11 1/2 games off the pace of the Dodgers in the NL West.

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