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Another Scherzian start reminds us why Max Scherzer is the favorite in the Cy Young

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Another Scherzian start reminds us why Max Scherzer is the favorite in the Cy Young

Entering Saturday’s start over Chicago, Max Scherzer was looking for his first win in four starts. 

Not what is forecasted from a pitcher looking to win his third straight Cy Young. Two no-decisions and a loss against Philadelphia had the Nationals' ace reeling, along with the rest of the team. It was the second longest stretch without a win for him this year.

Raise the odds against the Chicago Cubs and the right-hander delivered a Scherzian performance. Going the distance for the first time since April and only the second time in 2018, he struck out 11 with nearly 75 percent of his pitches being strikes. It was the 16th time this year that Scherzer reached double digit strikeouts.

This is what has become the expectation for the No. 1 pitcher on the depth chart. Getting late into a game and despite him giving out nine hits and three runs, not allowing any hope to course through the opponents' bats.

There was not a point where Chicago had the edge on Scherzer. After allowing a hit in the first, he proceeded to retire 15 straight batters. 

That is exactly how one wins the Cy Young. He did it in 2016 and 2017. Comparatively, this year could be deceptively better than both of those. Although it will be a tall task to reach the 20 wins he got in 2016 (currently sitting at 17-6), Scherzer surpassed his strikeout total from a year ago, and he has the best ERA by 20 points in his career.

Will it be good enough though? A 17-6 record, 2.31 ERA, 271 strikeouts with 12 strikeouts per nine innings on a team that resides with a losing record may not give him the edge.

Without a question, there is not a more dominant pitcher in the National League. Scherzer leads in wins, strikeouts, innings pitched, batting average against, WHIP and strikeouts per nine.

The only problem is that no pitcher from a non-playoff team in the National League has won since R.A. Dickey in 2012. Yes, the same year that Gio Gonzalez was wronged.

That shouldn’t make a difference for Scherzer, but it potentially will.

There are two others in the race: Philadelphia’s Aaron Nola (better record –16-4) and the Mets’ Jacob de Grom (better ERA – 1.68). Both have been vital for their team in 2018, one could argue they hold more value to their team than the three-time Cy Young winner was to the Nats.

Scherzer does have the benefit of the other three not currently sitting in the postseason either. Nola’s Phillies are still 4.5 games out of both the Wild Card and NL East.

However, Philadelphia will play Atlanta in seven contests before the final five teams are determined. Nola is sure to get them three starts in that time. Give him a division championship and Scherzer could be unseated by a 25 year old. It also does not help Scherzer that Nola had the better performance in their two head-to-heads in August.

Putting in his work, Scherzer should add a fourth Cy Young to name in the offseason. If the Nationals were in the postseason, this would be locked up. With the Nationals out of the race, if there is a postseason battle anyone should watch, seeing if Philadelphia makes a run will be it.

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Strasburg fans 11, Nationals top Marlins 4-2

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Strasburg fans 11, Nationals top Marlins 4-2

Stephen Strasburg matched his season-high with 11 strikeouts and Bryce Harper tied a career-high with five walks as the Washington Nationals beat the Miami Marlins 4-2 Tuesday night.

Anthony Rendon drove in two runs for the Nationals (77-75), who entered Tuesday's game 7 games behind the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves and 7 games back in the race for the final wild-card spot.

Strasburg (9-7) pitched six innings and allowed two runs and five hits with two walks. At one point, he struck out six consecutive batters.

Sean Doolittle pitched a perfect ninth for his 25th save in 26 opportunities.

Peter O'Brien hit his third home run of the season and J.T. Realmuto had two hits and knocked in a run for the Marlins.

Adam Eaton and Trea Turner had consecutive RBI singles in the second inning to give the Nationals an early lead.

O'Brien's solo homer off Strasburg cut the Marlins' deficit to 2-1.

Rendon's sacrifice fly pushed the lead to 3-1, but Realmuto pulled Miami within 3-2 with a base hit in the fifth.

Rendon's single in the sixth pushed Washington's advantage to 4-2.

Sandy Alcantara pitched four innings for the Marlins and allowed six hits, six walks, and three runs.

UP NEXT

Nationals: RHP Max Scherzer (17-7, 2.53 ERA) will begin a four-game series against the New York Mets on Thursday.

Marlins: RHP Jeff Brigham (0-2, 7.36) will take the mound on Thursday when Miami begins the final home series of the season, a four-game set against Cincinnati.

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Nationals headed to Fresno, California

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Nationals headed to Fresno, California

The Nationals top minor league affiliate has been the Syracuse Chiefs since 2009 but the Nats brass knew that partnership would end following the 2018 season after the Mets purchased the Chiefs. So the Nats were left scrambling for a new Triple-A affiliate.  The options were limited. In the end, the Nats were stuck with the Fresno Grizzlies. 

“The Washington Nationals are excited to be partnering with the Fresno Grizzlies of the Pacific Coast League,” said President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo via a statement. “Fresno is committed to player development and we hope this partnership will continue to yield success for both clubs on the field and off.”

The Fresno Grizzlies will be Washington’s fourth Triple-A club after being affiliated with Syracuse (2009-18), Columbus (2007-08) and New Orleans (2005-06).

Nationals Park is 2,800 miles away from Chukchansi Park, the home of the Fresno Grizzlies. That type of travel is not ideal for a quick call-up to Washington. Don't expect Victor Robles or Carter Kieboom to spend much time in California.

The big winner of today's announcement...  The Nationals Double-A affiliate, the Harrisburg Senators. 

Harrisburg in only 120 miles away from Nationals Park and it is not unpredecented for a prospect to skip Triple-A (Juan Soto did it this season).

The Senators play in the Eastern League, which ranges from Maine to Virginia. The majority of the Fresno Grizzlies games are played west of the Rockies. 

The other Nationals minor league affiliates are the Potomac (Va.) Nationals (Advanced-A), Hagerstown (Md.) Suns (Class A), and Auburn (N.Y.) Doubledays (Class A Short Season).

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