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Max Scherzer tosses 'immaculate inning' in Nationals' win over Rays

Max Scherzer tosses 'immaculate inning' in Nationals' win over Rays

Max Scherzer pitched eight strong innings to become the first 10-game winner in the majors this season, striking out 13 in the Washington Nationals 4-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night.

Scherzer (10-1) won his ninth consecutive decision while scattering five hits and did not allow a runner past second base until pinch-hitter Brad Miller's two-out double in the eighth.

Sean Doolittle pitched the ninth for his 15th save in 16 opportunities.

Scherzer struck out Johnny Field, Christian Arroyo and Daniel Robertson on a combined nine pitches in the sixth inning. It was the third nine pitch/three strikeout inning in Nationals history and the first since Scherzer did it against Philadelphia on May 14, 2017.

Tampa Bay starter Nathan Eovaldi (1-1) gave up four runs in five innings in his second start back from Tommy John surgery.

Washington first baseman Matt Adams' solo homer to lead off the second opened the scoring. Juan Soto then singled, moved to third on Michael A. Taylor's single and slid under Wilson Ramos' tag when first baseman C.J. Cron threw home on Wilmer Difo's grounder.

Soto and Difo were central to a fourth-inning rally. Two batters after Soto worked a walk, Difo tripled to right-center and made it 4-0 when he slid under Eovaldi's tag after a wild pitch.

Ramos, a National from 2010 to 2016, received an ovation before his first at-bat and went 0 for 3 in his first game in Washington since departing as a free agent.

Turg, while OF Adam Eaton's rehab from a left ankle bone bruise was transferred to Class A Potomac.

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Astros wade through first boo-filled night of many to come

Astros wade through first boo-filled night of many to come

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The only agreed upon factor of Saturday night’s spring training opener was affinity for Dusty Baker. 

Baker, alone at home plate to receive a ceremonial first pitch, raised his hand to the crowd when announced. Both sides cheered. Those in red stood, some shouted his name. Others on the Houston side could unabashedly applaud Baker. He represented what’s next, not what was.

But the past chased the Astros from the second the ballpark opened. Any Houston highlights were followed by hefty boos. “FOR THE H” flashed on the right-center field video board during the evening on what was supposed to be an Astros “home” game. However, there was nothing warm and fuzzy about the location for the Astros, an experience sure to track them outside of Houston throughout the season.

The Astros were booed en masse since Baker did not play any of his regulars. Myles Straw, Jeremy Pena and Taylor Jones began the game against Max Scherzer. It’s difficult to let Nos. 3, 89 and 79, respectively, have it on the first night of spring training. But, those on the team in 2017 remained safely in the dugout, prompting an expansion of targets.

Before Scherzer began his night, the Astros’ mascot, Orbit, ran across the face of the Washington dugout with an oversized Houston flag. He, too, was booed -- with fervor. Anything representing the Astros was in play since their main facets were not on the field.

Two signs carried by Nationals fans were taken by a ballpark employee. Some Washington fans banged on their seats during the game to mimic the Astros’ prior method for stealing signs. Scherzer thought something colorful had a chance to leak into the setting.

“I figured something like that was going to happen,” Scherzer said. “I got a good taste of what it’s like [when] facing [Bryce Harper] last year when we had our whole crowd going. I thought our fans would boo. I didn’t realize it was going to be that loud when I face Harp. That was a playoff atmosphere. Everything gets turned up a notch when the fans get into it.”

Scherzer threw 22 pitches, 13 for strikes in two innings. He allowed a single and struck out two batters he’s unlikely to ever face again. Otherwise, he was nonplussed to face the Astros in a game rain forced to pause, then stop, after two innings and a head-scratching delay.

“We won the World Series,” Scherzer said. “It wasn’t like I have a vendetta to hold. So, for me, over here we’re just trying to move forward and get ready for our season.”

Baker thought the reception went as expected.

“There were a lot of Nationals fans here,” Baker said. “We had a lot of fans here, too. You could tell who was for us and who was against us. All in all, it wasn’t too bad. You kind of expect to get some. But they weren’t too bad, though.”

So, the night ultimately served as the expected start. Scherzer pitched well. The Astros were booed.

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Astros booed, fans' signs taken in spring training opener against Nationals

Astros booed, fans' signs taken in spring training opener against Nationals

As if this week hadn’t already been bad enough for the Houston Astros, it got a bit worse on Saturday afternoon when they faced the Washington Nationals in the spring training opener. 

The Astros took the field at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches and were welcomed by the fans with an eruption of boos. The two teams share the facility, but it was Houston's home game. 

Since 2017 Washington and Houston have shared their spring training facility in West Palm Beach and made it a tradition to kick off their respective Grapefruit League schedules against each other. They will play six times this spring - though Saturday's opener was postponed by rain after a scoreless two innings. 

One courageous fan really got into the act, holding up a sign reading "Houston *'s" that was eventually confiscated by ballpark personnel, according to the Associated Press.

If this start is any indication of what they will face throughout this season, it's going to be a long 2020 for the Astros. 

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