Nationals

No. 1 Alabama 3-TD favorite to win at Missouri

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No. 1 Alabama 3-TD favorite to win at Missouri

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) The starting quarterback is out, the offensive line is in tatters and the opponent apparently is without flaw.

No wonder Missouri is a three-touchdown underdog to top-ranked Alabama heading into Saturday's game.

Coming off a deflating upset loss at home to Vanderbilt, Missouri (3-3, 0-3 Southeastern Conference) is still seeking that elusive first SEC victory.

Alabama (5-0, 2-0) has won eight in a row by 19 or more points, and it's been five years since its last loss to an unranked opponent. Next up is an unranked opponent flopping big-time in its debut season in the SEC. Plus, the Crimson Tide is fresh after taking last weekend off.

That leaves Nick Saban to conjure adversity, and he portrays the school's first visit to Missouri since 1978, and just the fourth overall meeting between the schools, as a major challenge. Perhaps that's out of deference for his former Kent State teammate, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel.

Earlier this week, Saban pointed out the frequent upsets this season while chiding reporters who perhaps have prejudged this an easy win.

``The teams that most of you in this room make head and shoulders above other teams obviously showed you how badly you can be mistaken,'' Saban said. ``I know I can be mistaken and get criticized, but you all are badly mistaken when you make teams so much better than everybody else.''

Missouri has a bit of history to lean on. Oklahoma was No. 1 in the BCS, and No. 3 in the poll, before getting knocked off 36-27 in Columbia, Mo., in 2010.

Plus, it's got an offense that Saban dislikes. The Alabama coach spoke out against the no-huddle earlier this season, saying leaving defenses on the field for extended periods with no chance of substitution creates fatigue and potential injury issues.

On the other hand, Alabama just beat another hurry-up school, Ole Miss, and handily, too. So that'll help making the adjustments.

``Very much,'' Tide cornerback Dee Milliner said. ``Ole Miss is a team that has a fast-paced offense, I think they match up great with Missouri.''

Alabama had three interceptions to compensate for sputtering offense in a 33-14 victory at home over the Rebels, trailing for the first time this season - for all of 15 seconds, erased when freshman Christion Jones responded with a 99-yard kickoff return.

A.J. McCarron is the first quarterback in school history to throw 12 touchdown passes in the first five games, and he leads one of three offenses in the nation that doesn't have a single interception.

Even after losing eight players to the NFL draft, there's been zero letup anywhere. Alabama is the stingiest team in the nation in terms of points allowed, total yards allowed and yards per play.

Players don't seem too worried about the unknown associated with coming to Columbia, Mo., for the first time. They're expecting a raucous welcome from a hopeful sellout crowd, but a gathering that is likely to contain thousands of Alabama faithful.

``I mean, it's a different atmosphere and it's just something you have to get adjusted to,'' safety Robert Lester said. ``Usually for me, personally, once I get started on the field everything else is an external factor, and it hasn't really bothered me.''

At midseason, Missouri's streak of seven consecutive bowl trips is in jeopardy. The hope is that redshirt freshman backup quarterback Corbin Berkstresser, who was just 9 for 30 for 189 yards and one touchdown last week after stepping in for injured James Franklin, will play with more confidence and fewer jitters this time around.

``That really wasn't me, I felt uneasy about myself,'' Berkstresser said. ``I'm not that guy that becomes nervous or anything, and I definitely felt uncomfortable. But definitely this week, I will be composed and ready to play.''

Berkstresser will be taking snaps from another replacement, with Brad McNulty in for injured center Mitch Morse. Left tackle Elvis Fisher has been less than his best physically. Somehow, this offense must produce against a team allowing only a touchdown per game.

``They're pretty darn good,'' offensive tackle Elvis Fisher said. ``We've got to be able to come out there ready to play our `A' game.''

Wide receiver T.J. Moe said the most notable aspect of the Alabama defense is its pursuit.

``It's not that every guy's dominating everybody on the field, it's just that if you make one guy miss, there's three guys waiting for you,'' Me said. ``So, you've got to get straight up field and get your yards.''

Eliminate the mistakes, too.

``Nobody's ever played a perfect game,'' Moe added, ``but we certainly have to play a lot better than we've played so far this year.''

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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. 

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