Nationals

Arkansas looks to keep focus against surging Tulsa

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Arkansas looks to keep focus against surging Tulsa

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) John L. Smith began the season coaching an Arkansas team hopeful of competing for the Southeastern Conference and national championships.

The interim coach has a far different job description with four games remaining.

Following yet another setback, this one a 30-27 defeat to Mississippi, Arkansas (3-5, 2-3 SEC) must win three of its final four games in order to reach bowl eligibility for the fourth straight season. The latest loss was a stinging blow for the Razorbacks, who had won two in a row and believed they had recovered from an earlier four-game losing streak.

Smith's job is to now make sure an already injury-riddled Arkansas team doesn't lose faith and go through the motions for the remainder of the season. His focus is to make sure the Razorbacks keep theirs and that they don't look ahead to the offseason, the pending hire of a new coach or the NFL.

``I think you do that every year, all year long anyway,'' Smith said. ``I think that's just part of it. And making sure that our guys go to the field and actually focus and concentrate on what it is we have to do today.''

Smith's difficulty in keeping the focus of an Arkansas team weary of losing - one that's now equaled its loss total for the previous two seasons combined - became all the more difficult Monday.

He said tight end Chris Gragg and running back Knile Davis will miss this week's game with Tulsa (7-1, 5-0 Conference USA). Gragg reinjured bruised leg bone against the Rebels that had kept him out of the previous three games, while Davis injured his right hamstring in the loss.

The Golden Hurricane have lost 17 straight to the Razorbacks. However, Tulsa has won seven straight this season since an opening loss at Iowa State and leads the nation in sacks - providing a suddenly difficult test for an Arkansas team that has proven anything but a sure thing this season.

The Razorbacks' fall from the preseason top 10 started with a then-shocking loss to Louisiana-Monroe on Sept. 8. That started the four-game losing streak in the team's first season following April's firing of former coach Bobby Petrino.

The latest loss now means Arkansas must win three of four games against teams (Tulsa, South Carolina, Mississippi State and LSU) that are a combined 28-5 in order to reach a bowl. Smith, for one, still believes that's possible.

``There never have been very many games we go into thinking that we're going to get our tail kicked,'' Smith said. ``There's not going to be any from here on out, definitely. We believe that we're going to go in and win it. And it has to start now.''

Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson's only losing season dating to high school, when he won three state championships at Greenwood, Ark., was a 5-7 mark during his first year with the Razorbacks in 2008. That was also Petrino's first season, but Wilson refused to place the blame for Arkansas' struggles on his former coach or anyone but himself.

``I feel like that's the coward's way out,'' Wilson said.

Wilson struggled against Ole Miss, throwing a pair of interceptions and narrowly avoiding several others. He threw for 297 yards but finished 24 of 43 passing and was fortunate the Rebels couldn't keep their hands on several other passes that fell incomplete.

The senior blamed himself for the near misses afterward, as well as for missing other open receivers. He said the losing this season has been an adjustment but that he's continuing to look for ways to motivate the Razorbacks.

Wilson, who elected to bypass a likely high draft pick in April's NFL draft, also said he hasn't seen any looking ahead by teammates to the offseason.

``We've still got four games left,'' Wilson said. ``So you'd be looking ahead quite a bit if you're looking ahead. ``We've got a big game this week.''

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Max Scherzer grits his way through broken nose in stellar outing, win vs. Phillies

Max Scherzer grits his way through broken nose in stellar outing, win vs. Phillies

WASHINGTON -- With a broken nose, pronounced black eye and seven shutout innings, Max Scherzer provided a striking capper to the Washington Nationals' day-night doubleheader sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies.

Scherzer himself? He shrugged off his work in the Nationals' 2-0 victory Wednesday night as business as usual.

"Trust me, this thing looks a lot worse than it actually is," Scherzer said. "I felt zero pain. There's been plenty of other injuries where I felt a lot of pain and I've had to pitch through. I'll hang my hat on those starts, but tonight I felt zero pain. This is part of what you have to do. You take the ball every fifth time.

"That's my responsibility to the team, to make sure I always post, and I knew I could post tonight."

Brian Dozier and Victor Robles hit solo homers to support Scherzer (6-5) as Washington won for the 16th time in 23 games. Philadelphia has dropped seven of its last nine and 12 of 18.

In the first game, Patrick Corbin struck out eight while allowing one run over seven innings as the Nationals earned a 6-2 victory in the delayed series opener after the teams were rained out Monday and Tuesday.

Scherzer bunted a ball off his face during batting practice Tuesday, but it didn't stop him from making his scheduled start. His injury may have provided an extra layer of intimidation in the form of a black eye more worthy of a boxing ring than a baseball diamond.

The three-time Cy Young Award winner sported a pronounced bruise arcing beneath his right eye, adding another hue to a glare that already featured one blue eye and one brown eye.

"Going out there and throwing, the only thing I had to deal with was the swelling underneath the eye," Scherzer said. "It was kind of jiggling around, and so in warmups I just had to get used to knowing what it was feeling like to throw the ball and just have that swelling."

While he wasn't at his most efficient on a humid night, piling up 117 pitches, Scherzer was rarely threatened. He struck out 10, yielded only four hits and permitted just two runners to reach scoring position. And he finished strong, striking out three in a row after Cesar Hernandez led off the seventh with a double.

"It really is one of the most impressive things I've seen in a while," Dozier said. "He's probably the best pitcher in our generation, and you don't get that status unless you take the ball every fifth day, no matter if you're doing good, doing bad, you got a broken nose. You always want the ball."

Bryce Harper, Scherzer's former Nationals teammate, was 0 for 4 with four walks in the doubleheader and was loudly booed before each plate appearance -- especially in the better-attended nightcap. This series is his second trip back to Washington, where he played from 2012-18, since signing a 13-year, $330 million contract with Philadelphia in March.

Dozier belted a two-out solo shot in the second off Jake Arrieta (6-6), who allowed two hits and struck out three over six innings and had the misfortune of matching up with Scherzer on the wrong day.

"Max is just one of the best to ever toe the rubber, honestly," Arietta said. "We have ran into him a couple of times. That's just what he does. He is tough to square up, and he is throwing three or four pitches for strikes with electric stuff. Just a tough one."

Robles homered off reliever Pat Neshek in the eighth. Neshek departed two batters later with a left hamstring strain, and manager Gabe Kapler said he was likely to land on the injured list less than a week after returning from an absence of more than three weeks caused by a shoulder strain.

Wander Suero pitched a perfect eighth for Washington, and Sean Doolittle worked the ninth for his 15th save in 18 tries.

Philadelphia was 0 for 12 with runners in scoring position between the two games.

Corbin (6-5), whose start was pushed back twice this week, allowed a solo homer to Scott Kingery in the first inning of the opener. But he let just one other runner to reach third while ending a personal three-game skid.

"It's not ideal, but you have to deal with it to make sure you are ready," said Corbin, who is one strikeout shy of 1,000 for his career. "I was glad we got that one in today."

Dozier and Gerardo Parra had RBI doubles against Phillies starter Zach Eflin (6-7). They later hit back-to-back homers in the eighth inning off Cole Irvin to seal the victory.

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This Nationals fan's Max Scherzer broken nose shirt is the best thing you'll see today

This Nationals fan's Max Scherzer broken nose shirt is the best thing you'll see today

Nationals ace Max Scherzer added another incredible chapter to his legendary career Wednesday, pitching seven shutout innings against the Phillies after breaking his nose in a batting practice accident the day before. 

To honor Scherzer's toughness, one amazing Nats fan wore arguably the greatest shirt ever seen at a baseball game.

(Photo: NBC Sports Washington)

This isn't a good shirt. This is a GREAT shirt, worthy of the man who's face it features. 

Someone get this fan a signed Scherzer baseball. 

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