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Scherzer fans 11, pitches Nationals past Diamondbacks

Scherzer fans 11, pitches Nationals past Diamondbacks

PHOENIX -- Energized by teammate Trea Turner's leadoff home run and working out of an early jam, Max Scherzer cruised to another victory Friday night.

The two-time NL Cy Young Award struck out 11 over seven innings of four-hit ball, and the Washington Nationals beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 3-1.

Scherzer (7-1) retired 15 in a row after giving up a home run to David Peralta leading off the third inning. The five-time All-Star also hit an RBI double, and remained unbeaten since April 4.

"It could have been quick outs in the beginning or quick outs in the end," Scherzer said. "I was on the attack."

Anthony Rendon also homered for the Nationals, who have won five of six. Sean Doolittle earned his second save in as many nights and eighth of the season.

Doolittle gave up a hit to struggling slugger Paul Goldschmidt, who after going 1 for 4 Friday is 3 for his last 38.

"You feel bad and you want to contribute to the team. I have gone 0-for-4, 0-for-5 and punched out plenty of times and know that (manager Torey Lovullo) has to deal with questions from you guys," Goldschmidt said. "I feel bad that my lack of production wears on other guys on this team and wears on the manager and he has to deal with it."

Matt Koch (2-1) went eight innings and allowed three runs and seven hits. The Diamondbacks have lost three straight for the second time this month.

Turner opened the game with his seventh career leadoff home run, landing near the Arizona bullpen. Peralta tied it at 1 with his seventh homer.

"He gives us a chance to win every outing," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said of Scherzer. "We got that run for him early and for him, he doesn't want to let the guys down."

The Diamondbacks had runners on second and third and none out against Scherzer in the bottom of the first, after a Peralta single and bunt single by Jarrod Dyson on which Scherzer overthrew first base. But Scherzer retired the next three hitters without allowing a run, two on strikeouts.

Scherzer was charged with his first error the season. He helped himself in the fourth with a two-out, ground rule double that gave Washington the lead.

"I love RBIs, man," Scherzer said. "I compete at the plate."

Washington left fielder Andrew Stevenson made a diving catch in the fifth to take away a hit from Nick Ahmed.

Rendon connected for his third home run in the eighth. The next batter, Matt Adams, had a potential homer taken away by right fielder Chris Owings, who reached over the fence for the catch.

"I know our bullpen has been used quite a bit lately, so that is what I am always trying to do. Go as deep as I can," Koch said.

STAR TURN TIMES THREE

Koch faced a former Cy Young Award winner for the third consecutive start in Scherzer. On May 1 he was matched up against the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw, and on May 6, Justin Verlander of the Astros.

CART SHARK

Doolittle came out from the bullpen in the visitors' bullpen cart for the second straight night, again with successful results.

"Maybe we need to bring that to Nats Park," Scherzer said.

BRIEFLY BARRETT

The Diamondbacks called up right-handed pitcher Jake Barrett from Triple-A Reno before Friday's game, after optioning reliever Silvino Bracho to Reno after Thursday's game. Barrett pitched a scoreless top of the ninth inning then was returned to Reno to make room for Saturday's starter, Troy Scribner.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Nationals: OF Adam Eaton was placed on the 60-day disabled list after arthroscopic ankle surgery on Thursday, and will be out until at least early June. ... C Matt Wieters went on the 10-day DL after suffering a left hamstring strain in Thursday night's game. C Spencer Kieboom was brought up from Triple-A Syracuse.

Diamondbacks: RHP Shelby Miller pitched three scoreless innings with five strikeouts in an extended spring training game on Friday, his first rehab outing since undergoing Tommy John surgery a year ago.

UP NEXT

Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg (4-3, 3.52 earned run average) is also 4-3 in 10 career starts against the Diamondbacks, the team he faces on Saturday.

Diamondbacks: Scribner was 2-1 with 5.68 ERA in five starts at Triple-A Reno this season.

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Fresh round of cuts helps Nationals Opening Day roster take shape

Fresh round of cuts helps Nationals Opening Day roster take shape

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The Opening Day roster became much clearer Saturday following a slew of player moves by the Nationals.

Right-handed pitcher Joe Ross was optioned to Triple-A Fresno. After consideration of using Ross in the bullpen, the organization decided to send him to Triple A and stretch him out there. Manager Davey Martinez said they view Ross as a starter now and in the future.

Catcher Spencer Kieboom and right-handed starter Erick Fedde will go to Double-A Harrisburg. This is the first instance of a decision based on the change in Triple-A affiliation. The Nationals switched from Syracuse to Fresno in the offseason -- a move they did not have complete control of. So, Kieboom and Fedde will go to Harrisburg in order to be readily available should something happen to a player on the 25-man roster during the opening homestand.

Prospect Carter Kieboom, right-handed starter Henderson Alvarez, right-handed reliever Aaron Barrett, right-handed reliever Scott Copeland and left-handed reliever Vidal Nuno have been reassigned to minor-league camp.

Carter Kieboom impressed at the plate throughout the spring. He continues to learn second base after sliding over from his traditional shortstop position. Barrett takes another step in his comeback following Tommy John surgery and a fractured elbow. Martinez said he thinks Barrett will help the parent club at some point this season.

Washington has three spring training games remaining. Patrick Corbin and Joe Ross pitch in split-squad games Sunday. Monday, the team is back in the District for its final game of the exhibition season. The season opener is Thursday, March 28.

This round of cuts drops the team’s options to 30 players. Koda Glover (forearm), Howie Kendrick (hamstring) and Michael A. Taylor (hip/knee) are unlikely to be ready for Opening Day. That trio appears heading for the injured list. Which leaves two bench spots among utility player Adrian Sanchez, outfielder Andrew Stevenson or first baseman, and out-of-nowhere minor-leaguer, Jake Noll until Taylor and Kendrick are ready. Two bullpen spots are available to Wander Suero, Justin Miller and Austen Williams in that alignment.

The Nationals could keep all three relievers for Opening Day. That would give them a bench of catcher Kurt Suzuki, utility player Wilmer Difo, first baseman Matt Adams, and likely Stevenson as the fourth outfielder.

Another wrinkle: reliever Kyle Barraclough, who has a 5.19 ERA and has allowed three home runs in 8 ⅔ innings, still has options. Sending him down would be a significant pivot after the organization often touted him as one of its featured relievers.

Last, multiple off-days to start the season play into this equation. If the Nationals choose a smaller bullpen group, it will have more time than usual to recover. What we know is these players are coming to play Thursday:

Starting pitchers:
Max Scherzer
Stephen Strasburg
Patrick Corbin (L)
Anibal Sanchez
Jeremy Hellickson

Relievers:
Tony Sipp (L)
Matt Grace (L)
Wander Suero
Trevor Rosenthal
Sean Doolittle (L)

Position players:
Yan Gomes (C)
Kurt Suzuki (C)
Ryan Zimmerman (1B)
Brian Dozier (2B)
Trea Turner (SS)
Anthony Rendon (3B)
Adam Eaton (RF)
Victor Robles (CF)
Juan Soto (LF)
Wilmer Difo (Utility)
Matt Adams (1B)

A few decisions remain to determine who will join them.

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Davey Martinez reveals the top -- and bottom -- of his lineup

Davey Martinez reveals the top -- and bottom -- of his lineup

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- We have a decision: Adam Eaton will leadoff, Trea Turner will hit second.

And, Victor Robles will reside at the bottom of the order in the ninth spot. Nationals manager Davey Martinez waffled during the spring about how to handle the top of the lineup. He recently made a decision, but declined to reveal it until asked again Saturday.

“After running all the numbers, I kind of like it,” Martinez said. “I like the fact he’s the first hitter they face. He’s a pest. I like the fact that he goes up there and sometimes gives 7-, 8-pitch at-bats, 9-pitch at-bats. And him hitting in front of Trea...Trea can hit and can drive in runs as well, so, having Robles hitting ninth, Eaton one, Trea two, that’s a pretty good combination.”

Both Eaton and Turner have led off the majority of their careers. Both would prefer to leadoff if given a straight choice. Here, Martinez decided for them.

A natural question is how such a structure would influence Turner’s opportunities to steal with either Juan Soto or Anthony Rendon right behind him. Martinez said it should have no bearing. Turner can just go.

“We want him to go,” Martinez said. “I think his biggest fear is maybe hitting in front of Anthony and Soto, but that shouldn’t deter what you do. We want him to steal bases.”

Robles is often going to hit ninth in order to align with Eaton and Turner. Martinez argues there is only one time when a player is the actual “leadoff” hitter. After that, the lineup churn begins.

So, here’s an Opening Day projection:


Eaton (L)
Turner
Soto (L)
Rendon
Zimmerman
Dozier
Gomes
Scherzer
Robles

One possible glitch is the catcher hitting in front of the pitcher. That could lead to situations where the pitcher is moving a runner, and the runner happens to be a catcher. Though, Gomes and Kurt Suzuki are above-average runners for their position.

Martinez said more information on the how and why of this decision is to come.

“Just what’s best as a whole lineup-wise, construction-wise,” Martinez said. “You’ll know more Opening Day why we want to do it, but I like Adam leading off.”

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