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Murphy, Scherzer continue to torment Mets in 2016

Murphy, Scherzer continue to torment Mets in 2016

After Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson went off for 41 points - including a playoff record 11 threes - at the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 6 of the 2016 Western Conference Finals, Max Scherzer - a Warriors fan - took to his Twitter account to shout his elation in capital letters, noting how Thompson rose to the occasion in one of the most important games of his career:

"Klay Thompson just showed the world how BIG TIME PLAYERS play in BIG TIME GAMES!"

The message spoke to his admiration not only for Thompson's abilities, but for the opportunity he seized as a professional athlete. Scherzer himself will admit that some of his own games mean more than others, depending on the time of season, opponent or circumstances in the standings.

The stakes of a Major League Baseball game on June 29th do not quite compare to those of a do-or-die NBA playoff tilt, but on Wednesday night Scherzer once again stepped up against the rival New York Mets, the reigning champions in the NL East. The Nats ace went 7 1/3 shutout innings with just two hits allowed and 10 strikeouts in Washington's 4-2, sweep-securing win.

Scherzer now has a 1.66 ERA in six starts against the Mets since he signed with the Nationals before the 2015 season. In his last three matchups with them, he's allowed just two earned runs across 22 1/3 innings.

Scherzer wasn't the only big time player to show up in a big time game on Wednesday. Add Daniel Murphy to the category, as the Nats second baseman clubbed two homers, his 13th and 14th of the season. Since joining the Nats, he is 15-for-35 (.429) with four homers and 11 RBI against his former team.

Manager Dusty Baker is pleased to see two of his most important players raise their games against the Mets.

"It’s everything. You want them to step up against everybody, but especially against your rivals, guys you’re chasing or guys that are chasing you," Baker explained. 

"This was big… Every game’s a two-game game when you’re playing a team that’s chasing you or you’re chasing them."

Getting Murphy to publicly admit pleasure in hammering his former team has so far proven to be an impossible task. He doesn't like talking about himself and he definitely does not like talking about his former team.

Scherzer, though, will speak on his behalf.

"It's just obvious that he wants to beat 'em up. It's obvious," Scherzer said. "Everybody wants to. When you face you're former team, you obviously wanna get the best of them. For him to come out here and really slug against them, it puts a smile on all of our faces because we know what he's going through."

Murphy will not put extra weight on games against the Mets, but will detail the importance of sweeping an NL East foe.

"You like playing well against division opponents. Those games, they just count extra. You've got one team, when they win they move in one direction, the other teams moves in the other one," Murphy said.

A lot can change from the end of June until the end of the regular season and the Nationals know that well. In 2015, they were 6-3 through their first nine games against the Mets, just as they are this season. They lost their next six matchups and the division along the way.

There will be many more opportunities this season for players on either side to step up and make a dramatic difference in the season series. So far in 2016, however, it's been Scherzer and Murphy who have stood out among all.

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Max Scherzer bounces back from last week's rough start against Atlanta

USA Today Sports

Max Scherzer bounces back from last week's rough start against Atlanta

ATLANTA -- Max Scherzer allowed five hits in seven innings, and the Washington Nationals tuned up for the playoffs with a 4-2 victory over Atlanta Braves on Tuesday night.

Scherzer (15-6) bounced back from his worst start of the season, also against the Braves last week, when he walked six and was roughed up for seven runs in an 8-2 loss.

This time, Scherzer struck out seven and walked only one while throwing 83 of 112 pitches for strikes.

Ryan Madson pitched around trouble in the eighth and Sean Doolittle finished with a perfect for his 22nd save, his 19th in as many chances since the Nationals acquired him from Oakland on July 16.

Ryan Zimmerman had three hits and drove in a pair of runs for the NL East champion Nationals.

Rookie left-hander Luiz Gohara (1-2) surrendered four runs and 11 hits in 6 1/3 innings.

Washington took a 2-0 lead in the third, sparked by Matt Wieters' leadoff double. Trea Turner and Zimmerman had run-scoring singles..

Scherzer retired the first 11 Atlanta hitters before Freddie Freeman reached on a bloop single to right in the fourth. Kurt Suzuki dumped a 3-2 pitch in front of left fielder Howie Kendrick to bring home Atlanta's first run.

Zimmerman added another RBI single in the fifth and Washington finished Gohara in the seventh. Rendon ripped a double just inside the third-base bag to drive in Turner.

Dansby Swanson's fifth-inning double provided Atlanta's other run.


Nationals: 2B Daniel Murphy was scratched from the lineup shortly before the first pitch because of hamstring tightness. He was replaced by Wilmer Difo.

Braves: CF Ender Inciarte left after the fourth inning with a sore left thumb. It's been a lingering problem for the speedy outfielder, who was listed as day to day. Lane Adams moved from left field to center after Inciarte departedt, while Jace Peterson took over leadoff spot in the order.


Nationals: LH Gio Gonzalez (14-7) gets the nod in the second game of the series Wednesday night. He is 0-2 with a 6.48 ERA in three starts against Atlanta this season, which includes his most recent appearance last week in Washington when he surrendered seven hits and five runs in five innings of an 8-0 loss.

Braves: RH Lucas Sims (2-5) will fill in for Mike Foltynewicz, who was forced to skip his scheduled start after lacerating his right middle finger in his last appearance. Sims has made his last four relief appearances since starting the first seven games of his big league career.

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Nationals vs. Braves Preview: Scherzer seeks redemption


Nationals vs. Braves Preview: Scherzer seeks redemption

ATLANTA -- In his last start, only his second in the major leagues, Atlanta Braves rookie Luiz Gohara outpitched Washington Nationals ace and Cy Young contender Max Scherzer.

On Tuesday, he gets to try it again.

Gohara (1-1, 6.30 ERA) is queued up for a rematch with Scherzer (14-6, 2.59) and the Nationals in the opener of a three-game series at SunTrust Park.

Washington (90-59) has clinched the National League East title for the fourth time in six years. Atlanta (67-81) was mathematically eliminated from playoff consideration after its Sunday loss to the New York Mets. The two teams have split 16 games this season, with the Braves winning two of three last week in Washington.


Gohara showed why he is in contention to join the Atlanta rotation on a full-time basis in 2018. The big left-hander from Brazil, who went from Class A to the majors in one season, beat the Nationals 8-2 on Wednesday. He allowed two runs (one earned) on six hits in six innings, striking out six. He didn't issue a walk.

In that start, Gohara located his four-seam fastball -- something he couldn't do in his major league debut against Texas.

"The kid gets locked in and really competes," Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. "And that's what I heard about him from guys that played with him, the guys that have had him, been around him. They say once he gets out there, he's trying to beat you. That's legit stuff right there, too."

Scherzer endured his worst start of the season against the Braves last week. He gave up a season-high seven runs on seven hits and a season-high six walks in six innings. He threw 116 pitches, part of the plan to stretch him out for the postseason.

"For the first 100 pitches, I felt like I was executing pitches the way I wanted to," Scherzer said. "Then, after pitch 100, that's when the wheels fell off and I was searching for everything. Sometimes that happens. I don't think anything's broken. My arm feels fine. There's nothing wrong here. This is why I needed to pitch that deep into the game, so I can shake off some of that rust."

The big hiccup for Scherzer came when he allowed a grand slam to Braves left fielder Matt Kemp. However, on Tuesday, he isn't likely to face Kemp, who has missed the past two games after leaving the Friday contest with a strained hamstring.

In 16 career appearances, 14 starts, against Atlanta, Scherzer is 6-5 with a 4.04 ERA. In 2017, he has made four starts against the Braves, going 1-2 with a 4.91. He was 4-0 against Atlanta a year ago.

The hottest batter for the Braves has been center fielder Ender Inciarte, who is 10 hits shy of becoming only the seventh player in Atlanta franchise history to reach 200. The last Brave to get 200 hits was Marquis Grissom, who had 207 in 1996.

Washington's Ryan Zimmerman is on the verge of a 30-homer/30-double season. Last week, he joined Adam Dunn as the only Nationals player to post two 30-homer seasons with the club.