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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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Reports: Nationals to pay minor-league players $300 a week in June

Reports: Nationals to pay minor-league players $300 a week in June

The Nationals will reportedly pay minor-league players in their farm system $300 per week for the month of June, The Athletic's Britt Ghiroli and Emily Waldon first reported.

The new pay rate for the players in Washington's system is a drop of $100 per week - or 25% from the $400 teams had pledged to pay their inactive minor league players each week up until May 31. The Washington Post also reported the move. 

That change in salaries for Nationals' minor-league players comes after hundreds of minor leaguers across baseball were released on Thursday due to the coronavirus pandemic, including players in Washington's system. The cuts were attributed to there likely being no minor-league season at all. Around 30 players were let go Thursday from the Nationals system, The Athletic's story stated.

Though Washington has pledged to pay remaining minor leaguers for June, it is the only franchise that has stated it will be doing so at that rate of $300. Other teams have stuck with the $400 figure so far - except the Oakland Athletics, who informed players they would not be paid after May 31

NBC Sports Washington reported last week that the Lerner Family announced there would be no furloughs or layoffs for the Nationals' staff - though pay cuts range from 10% to 25% and will not go back up even if there is a baseball season.


Releases of minor-league players and cuts in pay are just the latest fallout from what is slowly becoming a lost season for baseball. Though there is still optimism that a 2020 season will happen, at least for Major League Baseball, the two sides trying to negotiate a safe and fair deal continue to hit road bumps. Disagreements in salary, safety measures and other factors have talks continuing on into June between owners and the MLB Players' Association. 

As the calendar turns to another month, MLB remains in a tough position. Problems exist now, and the current landscape could lead to future struggles for the game of baseball.

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Stalled 2020 negotiations could hinder MLB's future, according to ESPN's Buster Olney

Stalled 2020 negotiations could hinder MLB's future, according to ESPN's Buster Olney

The feelings around a 2020 Major League Baseball season have slowly shifted from hopeful to cautiously optimistic to questionable as negotiations between the players and owners continue to hit road bumps.

Further salary cuts, player safety and the structure of the potential season are all factors that the two sides have different opinions on. Therefore, an agreement that would bring baseball back has continuously stalled. MLB Network's Jon Heyman explained that a "soft deadline" for a deal to be reached was June 1st. That now seems highly unlikely.

As players continue to voice their displeasure with the idea of losing a larger sum of their salary and owners stand pat, there is still a lot to be worked out if games are going to be played. Now, another concerning detail has emerged, as ESPN's Buster Olney wrote on Sunday that there is a faction of owners content with no baseball happening in 2020.

"Sources say there is a group of owners perfectly willing to shut down the season, to slash payroll costs and reduce losses, and the disparate views among the 30 teams have been reflected in the decisions to fire and furlough," he wrote.

Whether this mindset takes control or not, Major League Baseball is facing a major turning point both for the 2020 season and beyond. As Olney explains in his piece, the messy negotiations aren't just dangerous for the near future, but for years to come.

The focus has been on salvaging the current season, but what about losing next year? That's a reasonable thought according to Olney.

If the current season disappears, there's a reasonable expectation that tensions will carry over into the '21 season that will require a new Collect Bargaining Agreement. If the sides couldn't settle on an appropriate deal for a shortened season, things won't be any easier when the fate of their careers for years to come is now on the table. 

Olney explained that on the side of the players, the threat of a strike could be enacted if negotiations continue to sour. As for the owners, the thought of losing more money in the future on a new deal is enough for them to continue to not budge. 

The stalemate continuing on would completely shatter the league's ability to get things back to normal. That's bad for Major League Baseball internally, but the outside optics could be even worse. 

Olney notes that a lost season will obviously not go over well with supporters. Whether fans are supporting the player's request or believe pay cuts should be made, no one will be happy if they can't watch their team play in 2020. 

"If that doesn't happen -- if they can't agree on a deal to play in 2020 -- baseball will become a loathed presence on North America's sporting landscape, scorned by many fans," Olney wrote.


But, the anger at the MLB may not end there. Even if 2021 does see baseball happen, drawn-out disputes to get to that point could push fans even further away.

"The labor fight could go on and on, and by the time it all plays out, it's impossible to know how many fans, feeling alienated or disgusted, will leave baseball behind once and for all," Olney added.

The frustration wouldn't just be at the owners, either. Though the players have reasons for their stances, it doesn't mean everyone is going to understand. Olney brought up former pitcher Tom Glavine's explanation to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution of how the current situation compared to the 1994-1995 strike. A largely economic-based stoppage, arguments over large sums of money didn't gain much support from the public, even if what the players wanted was fair.

"If it were to come down to an economic issue and that's the reason baseball didn't come back, you're looking at a situation similar to the strike of '94 and '95 as far as fans are concerned," Glavine said. "Even if the players were 100% justified in what they were complaining about, they're still going to look bad."

At this time, figuring out the 2020 MLB season is still of the utmost importance. Not all hope is lost, but a tough road lies ahead. Should things continue to sour, Olney notes that the future of baseball will face countless more problems.

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