In Tuesday night's loss to the Toronto Blue Jays, Nats starter Max Scherzer allowed four runs through six innings on six hits. On some nights, that would be enough for a win for the Nationals, a team that ranks in the top five in the majors in runs scored.
But it wasn't enough on this particular night, as for Scherzer's standards he was off. He took the loss as the Nationals fell 7-3, but the outing in some ways illustrated exactly how good he has been so far this season.
Before Tuesday night, Scherzer had allowed more than one earned run just twice in 10 outings. To see him show even the slightest of cracks is unusual.
"The guy has just been unbelievable for us," Tyler Moore said. "He just turns it on whenever he needs to. When he gives up a hit, you're like 'how did he do that?' He's just a really good pitcher."
"It was a little bit different tonight," manager Matt Williams said. "He's not going to be perfect every time out."
Scherzer's kryptonite on Tuesday was 26-year-old outfielder Kevin Pillar, a former 32nd round pick. A three-year pro, Pillar hit his eighth and ninth career homers off Scherzer on Tuesday.
Pillar's first homer was a solo shot in the second inning. His second was much more damaging, as it drove in three runs and handed the Blue Jays a 4-3 lead in the top of the sixth.
After allowing the first homer to Pillar - and a single to him in the fourth - Scherzer served up consecutive sliders in the third matchup. He left one of them up and Pillar smacked it over the fence in left field.
"Unfortunately I hung a slider in that situation and he made me pay," Scherzer explained. "I still think that was the right pitch, I just didn't execute it. That's the stuff that leaves you frustrated. I'm not going to second-guess myself on the pitch selection, it's just the execution of it."
That one pitch, in a 1-1 count, made the difference. The Blue Jays later tacked on three more runs against the Nats' bullpen and held on for the win.
Scherzer lamented the one big mistake, but plans to shrug it off and move on as soon as he can.
"You can't be perfect out there," Scherzer said. "No matter what, you always have to flush it out and look at the positives. You're going to have things to work on even when you have good starts. This is just one game that I got beat. You just go back out there with the mentality that you're going to win the next one. I'm looking forward to getting back to work."