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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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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.