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Where would Nats be without Max Scherzer?

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Where would Nats be without Max Scherzer?

When the Nationals first signed Max Scherzer to a record free-agent deal in January, many of us - including yours truly - scratched their heads. The Nats already had by most accounts the deepest rotation in baseball and by some numbers, such as starters ERA, the best.

Where would Tanner Roark go? Was the move unnecessary? Am I taking crazy pills?

The Nationals had obvious needs, and signing Scherzer did not fill any of them.

But now, roughly a fifth of the way through the 2015 season, the signing of Scherzer doesn't only make sense, the current state of their rotation makes you wonder where they would be without him.

Doug Fister is out with a strained flexor muscle in his right forearm, an injury he suffered after a botched start time in San Diego. Stephen Strasburg is in the middle of the worst start of his six-year MLB career. Jordan Zimmermann has been uncharacteristically up-and-down. And Gio Gonzalez has a 4.25 ERA and a 1.535 WHIP.

Remove Scherzer's stats and the Nationals' rotation ERA is 4.65. Only three teams in the NL are currently worse: the Phillies, Brewers and Rockies.

Scherzer himself is now 4-3 with a 1.75 ERA, the best start to a season of his career. He has 66 strikeouts - tied for most in MLB - in 56 2/3 innings with only eight walks. His 2.04 FIP is so far the lowest in the National League.

Scherzer was dominant again in Saturday night's 4-1 win over the Padres in San Diego. He tossed seven scoreless innings with 11 strikeouts, four hits and two walks allowed. Scherzer has posted double-digit strikeouts in three of his last four outings and at least eight Ks in six of his eight starts this season. He has an 8.25 strikeout-to-walk ratio, which is more than twice as good as his career average.

Scherzer has gone at least seven innings in seven of his eight starts this season and in six consecutive appearances. His shortest start was six innings on April 12 and only once this year has he allowed more than two earned runs in a game. Only twice has he given up more than one.

A former Cy Young winner, Scherzer has stepped in and immediately become the clear ace of the Nationals' staff. The rest of their rotation has been inconsistent overall, even Fister who was their rock in 2014, and even Zimmemrann who has been one of the best pitchers in the NL for several years.

The question before this season was where the Nationals' rotation would rank among the best staffs in recent baseball history. Now it is fair to ask, where would they be without Max Scherzer?

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Nats put Scherzer-Strasburg scuffle aside to split Braves series

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USA TODAY Sports

Nats put Scherzer-Strasburg scuffle aside to split Braves series

Bryce Harper homered, Max Scherzer struck out seven in six innings and the Washington Nationals beat the Atlanta Braves 6-2 on Sunday.

Anthony Rendon also had two hits and drove in two runs for Washington, extending his hitting streak to 10 games and helping the Nationals earn a split of the series after Saturday's game was rained out. Adam Eaton and Juan Soto each had three hits.

Two days after a heated exchange with teammate Stephen Strasburg during Friday's 8-5 loss, Scherzer (13-5) allowed two runs and eight hits in his third straight win. The three-time Cy Young Award winner has pitched six or more innings in his last 19 starts.

Kelvin Herrera got five outs for his first save with Washington.

The start of the game was delayed 1 hour, 55 minutes by rain, and another downpour stopped play for almost 100 minutes between the sixth and seventh innings.

Atlanta's Mike Foltynewicz (7-6) gave up four runs and nine hits over 5 2/3 innings.

Harper singled in Eaton to give Washington a 4-2 lead in the sixth. Matt Adams added another RBI single in the seventh, and Harper added a solo drive in the eighth for his 24th homer.

Scherzer was staked to an early 3-0 lead and then got some help from his defense.

Atlanta rookie Ronald Acuna Jr. led off the third with a drive off the wall in center, but he was thrown out by Harper while trying for a double. With a runner on first in the fifth, Freddie Freeman's blast to right was chased down by Eaton on the warning track.

Then in the seventh, Michael A. Taylor made a leaping catch at the wall in center to rob Dansby Swanson of extra bases with one runner on.

Washington got off to a fast start with three runs in the first. Rendon drove in Eaton and Harper with a triple down the right-field line, and then scored on Soto's groundout.

Swanson drove in Atlanta's runs with a groundout in the second and a single in the fourth.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Braves: All-Star 2B Ozzie Albies, who left Friday's game with right hamstring tightness, got the day off.

Nationals: RHP Sean Doolittle (left toe inflammation) experienced extended soreness after throwing off the mound Friday. An MRI Saturday revealed a stress reaction, comparable to a bone bruise, in the bridge of his foot and he is wearing a walking boot. ... RHP Koda Glover (right shoulder tendinitis) was reinstated from the 60-day DL and optioned to Triple-A Syracuse.

UP NEXT

Braves: LHP Sean Newcomb (8-5, 3.51 ERA) pitches the opener of a two-game series in Miami on Monday. He already has beaten the Marlins twice this season, allowing one run in 12 innings.

Nationals: LHP Gio Gonzalez (6-6, 3.72 ERA) opens a three-game series in Milwaukee on Monday night. He is 2-4 with a 4.93 ERA in nine career starts versus the Brewers.

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Nationals trade Brian Goodwin to Kansas City Royals

Nationals trade Brian Goodwin to Kansas City Royals

KANSAS CITY, Mo.  -- Outfielder Brian Goodwin has been acquired by the Kansas City Royals from the Washington Nationals for minor league pitcher Jacob Condra-Bogan.

The 27-year-old Goodwin hit .200 with three homers and 12 RBIs in 48 games for the Nationals this season. He bruised his left wrist diving for a ball and did not play from April 15 until May 15, when he had two at-bats. He went back on the disabled list, returned June 1 and is hitting .171 (7 for 41) since.

Condra-Bogan, 23, went 1-1 with a 2.08 ERA in 16 relief outings with Lexington of the South Atlantic League and one appearance with Wilmington of the Carolina League, also Class A.

The trade was announced Sunday.

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