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Nats 2015 biggest moments No. 10: Scherzer signs


Nats 2015 biggest moments No. 10: Scherzer signs

We are counting down the 10 biggest moments of 2015 for the Nationals as we approach New Year's Day. In this first installment, we look back nearly a year ago when the Nats signed Max Scherzer to a record free agent contract...

The Nationals entered last winter with a clear set of goals. They had several key players who were one year away from free agency and the possibility of contract extensions or trades were on the table. The Nats had a reliever in Tyler Clippard that most expected them to trade. And they had a void at second base that provided a chance for an upgrade.

The one part of their roster that appeared to need no help at all was their starting rotation. The Nationals had the best rotation ERA in 2014 with Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez, Doug Fister and Tanner Roark all under contract. If it wasn't the best rotation in baseball, it was no doubt the deepest. No one else could boast a No. 5 starter in Roark who went 15-10 with a 2.85 ERA in 31 starts. 

One could argue that the Nats had needs, but starting pitching wasn't one of them. But that didn't stop them from reaching an agreement on a record contract with Max Scherzer, the biggest name available on the free agent market. Scherzer signed officially on Jan. 21 for $210 million over seven years. It was a deal that included deferred money through the year 2028 and income subject to state taxes in Florida. Despite having to wait until late in the offseason to sign, Scherzer and his agent Scott Boras got the contract they were seeking all along.

There was a domino effect with Scherzer's signing that pushed Roark to the bullpen where he struggled for much of the year. But there is no questioning Scherzer's production in his first season with the Nationals.

For years the Nationals thought they had a group of aces between Strasburg, Zimmermann and Gio, but Scherzer quickly showed Washington what a truly dominant pitcher looks like. Through the first 16 of his 33 starts he held a 1.82 ERA and opponents to a .181 batting average. He struck out 139 batters in 118 2/3 innings. He no-hit the Pirates on June 20 and came within one strike of a perfect game. In the start before that he carved up the Brewers for 16 strikeouts, one walk and just one hit in a shutout. 

Scherzer was also making strides in subtle ways. He was cutting down his pitches per inning to become more efficient and last later into games.

Somehow, Scherzer had managed to find another gear after signing his big free agent deal. That's not how it usually works, but this was Scherzer's way of showing he was as advertised, a perennial Cy Young candidate capable of absolutely demolishing an opposing lineup.

Scherzer would slow down and post a 5.05 ERA in his next 12 outings before recovering to hold a 1.63 ERA over his final five starts, including his second no-hitter of the season on Oct. 3 against the Mets. And overall, his numbers were impressive. He placed fifth in NL Cy Young voting with a 2.79 ERA and a ridiculous 276 strikeouts in 228 2/3 innings.

Scherzer has six years left on his contract with the Nationals, but so far, so good. And now with Zimmermann having left in free agency and Strasburg facing that possibility a year from now, Scherzer is the guy in Washington. His signing was one of the biggest moments of 2015 and one that will affect the franchise for years to come.

[RELATED: Appreciating Jordan Zimmermann’s Nationals career]

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Turner, Adams power Nats over Giants to end 4-game skid

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Turner, Adams power Nats over Giants to end 4-game skid

SAN FRANCISCO -- Trea Turner got five hits, Matt Adams homered and drove in six runs, and the Washington Nationals broke out of their offensive funk in a big way, routing the San Francisco Giants 15-2 Wednesday to end a four-game losing streak.

The Nationals had totaled just eight runs during their skid. Andrew Stevenson had two doubles, two singles and four RBIs as Washington set season highs for runs and hits (18).

Manager Dave Martinez's ballclub has been stunted by a rash of injuries this season but salvaged the final game of the three-game series at AT&T Park series to end a rough 4-5 road trip. Max Scherzer (5-1) did his part, striking out 10 in six innings.

Turner came into the game batting .232, and the leadoff man's slow start had contributed to the Nationals' struggles. He raised his batting average 35 points, tying a career high for hits in a game. He also scored twice, drove in two runs and stole his 10th base this season.

Adams matched his career best for RBIs. He singled as part of a three-run first, put the Nationals up 6-1 with a three-run homer off Jeff Samardzija (1-1) in the fourth and added a two-run single in the eighth.

The Nationals scored 14 of their 15 runs with two outs.

Scherzer earned his fourth consecutive win, all of them coming after a Washington loss. He allowed two runs and five hits, and reached double figures in strikeouts for the fourth time in six starts this season.

Brandon Belt and Pablo Sandoval each two hits apiece for the Giants.

Samardzija labored through a 30-pitch first inning and was done after retiring 11 batters. He gave up six runs on eight hits with three walks.


Nationals: 1B Ryan Zimmerman and 2B Howie Kendrick were given the day off.

Giants: Mac Williamson was a late scratch because of neck stiffness, one day after stumbling over the bullpen pitching mound and crashing into a low fence while chasing a foul ball. ... RHP Chris Stratton was placed on the paternity list. ... RHP Roberto Gomez was called up from Triple-A Sacramento.


Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg (2-2, 2.97 ERA) pitches against the Diamondbacks on Friday in Washington. He has yielded six earned runs and three homers over his last 13 innings.

Giants: LHP Derek Holland (0-3, 4.98) faces the Los Angeles Dodgers in the opener of a four-game series at AT&T Park on Friday night. Holland is winless in two career starts against the Dodgers.

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Williamson homers again, Giants top Nationals 4-3


Williamson homers again, Giants top Nationals 4-3

SAN FRANCISCO -- Mac Williamson had to dust himself off after crashing into a low padded wall near the stands in left field while chasing a foul ball.

More frustrated than hurt, Williamson took it out on Nationals pitcher Tanner Roark a few moments later after undergoing a series of concussion tests in the dugout.

Williamson homered for the second straight night and third in five games, hitting a tiebreaking shot in the sixth inning to lead San Francisco to a 4-3 victory over Washington on Tuesday night.

"I got pretty lucky," Williamson said. "I felt fine then and I feel fine now. I'm sure once the adrenalin wears off later tonight, tomorrow we'll see how the body feels. I'm sure I'll be a little sore."

Brandon Belt hit his fifth home run in six games, Joe Panik added three hits and scored twice, and the Giants won their third straight and fourth in the last five.

One night after hitting a 464-foot homer in the series opener, Williamson hit a first-pitch solo shot to center off Roark with two outs in the sixth inning that bounced off the top of the wall and broke a 3-all tie. It wasn't as far as Monday's clout -- this one went 423 feet -- but was just as pivotal for the Giants.

"We've talked about what a shot in the arm he's been and he's more than that," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "He came through again tonight. Good for him because he's worked hard at it."

Williamson's deciding home run came one inning after he stumbled over the bullpen mound in foul territory and crashed into a low wall near the stands while trying to chase down Bryce Harper's foul ball. Williamson stayed down briefly as team trainers rushed out before getting to his feet.

"I tried to roll my neck a little bit and my head down a little bit when I started going down," Williamson said. "I think that helped break my fall. I was just a little frustrated I didn't come up with the play. I had it in my glove and it came out."

Belt hit a two-run shot off Roark (1-2) in the third.

Michael Taylor had a three-run homer for Washington, which has lost four straight and 14 of 20 since opening the season 4-0.

"It seems like that sixth inning's been biting us in the rear as of late," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "We're swinging the bats. We just can't get the big hit with people on base."

Reyes Moronta (1-0) retired six batters for his first career win. Sam Dyson pitched one inning and Hunter Strickland worked the ninth for his fifth save.

The Giants got a run off Roark in the first but left the bases loaded when Evan Longoria struck out looking to end the inning. Belt homered on a 3-2 pitch from Roark in the second to make it 3-0.

Washington tied it on Taylor's three-run homer off starter Ty Blach in the third. Ryan Zimmerman walked and Moises Sierra singled before Taylor's deep drive into the right-field stands.

Roark went into the game 6-0 in seven career games against San Francisco but couldn't find a rhythm this time. He allowed four runs on six hits, walked two and hit a batter and threw a pair of wild pitches.


Panik hit a soft comebacker to Roark in the fifth that glanced off the pitcher's glove then bounced up on the top of his cap before falling to the turf. Roark initially couldn't locate the ball but found it in time to throw to first for the out.


Blach allowed three runs and four hits in five innings. After the game, Bochy said the left-hander suffered from food poisoning last week and was given an IV on Monday. "That was a really gutty effort that he gave us," Bochy said.


Nationals: Placed RHP Shawn Kelley on the 10-disabled list with ulnar nerve irritation in his right elbow. Infielder/outfielder Matt Reynolds was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse and outfielder Rafael Bautista and infielder Adrian Sanchez were called up.


Nationals RHP Max Scherzer (4-1, 1.36 ERA) and Giants RHP Jeff Samardzija (1-0, 0.00) take to the mound for the series finale at AT&T Park on Wednesday. Samardzija is making his second start after beginning the season on the disabled list.