Less than 24 hours after Clayton Kershaw carved the Nationals up to the tune of 14 strikeouts across eight scoreless innings, right-hander Zack Greinke followed suit in a 5-0 shutout for the Los Angeles Dodgers on a heat-soaked Sunday afternoon at Nats Park.
Greinke had eight scoreless frames of his own to go along with a season-high 11 strikeouts. He allowed just three singles, just like his Cy Young-wielding counterpart did the day before.
On Sunday, the Nats had their own Cy Young-winning ace on the mound in Max Scherzer, and he was very good. The right-hander allowed just one run on a wild pitch through six innings. He lowered his ERA from 2.11 to 2.09, yet took his eighth loss of the season. The Nats, by the way, have scored only seven total runs in those games.
On this particular day Scherzer was excellent, but Greinke was even better.
"I thought I did pitch well. Giving up only one run is good but good is not good enough when you’re going up against Greinke and what he’s doing right now. He just completely shut us down. He was throwing the ball outstanding and I wasn’t able to match him," Scherzer said.
"I love facing the best. Right now, he’s the best. He started the All-Star Game. I always enjoy facing the best. You want to go out there and compete with him and compete as hard as you can. I went out there and gave everything I got. I got beat today. He was better."
Scherzer's wild pitch came in the top of the fourth inning with Andre Ethier on third. Ethier led off with a double and was moved over on a sacrifice bunt by Yasmani Grandal.
Scherzer explained what happened with the pitch that sailed past Wilson Ramos and to the backstop:
"It was just a cutter that broke too far in. Just one of those things, I yanked it. I missed with it and that ended up costing me a crucial run at that point in the game."
Scherzer was removed after 98 pitches with his spot due up second in the lineup before the bottom of the seventh inning. Manager Matt Williams noted both of those reasons and also the weather. The game was played with a first-pitch temperature of 93 degrees and humidity that brought the heat index upwards of 100.
Scherzer downplayed the heat as an excuse, not that he needed one in what was an overall solid outing. He did, however, note that he shortened his warmup before the game. The Nats were also originally supposed to wear their red jerseys before he asked the team to switch to the home whites.
The Nationals leave the weekend having lost two straight to some of the best pitchers in baseball. Kershaw and Greinke certainly do not make it easy for opposing lineups.
"With those guys you just have to get them in the strike zone and put a good swing on it and hope something good happens," Clint Robinson said. "You can't really go up there sitting on one particular pitch. Him and Kershaw don't pitch to patterns. They kind of go with what they're feeling that day. The past two days they have been feeling it all. They've had all their pitches working."
That's two marquee pitchers in two days with Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard of the Mets on their way to Washington this week. With an already-depleted lineup, the Nationals have had and will have their work cut out for them.
"What do you want us to do? You want us to just duck-tail and run? This is the big leagues, that's part of it," Robinson continued. "These guys are the best in the world for a reason. You just gotta go out there and rise up to the challenge."