SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – With his closer unavailable after pitching in four of the past five games, Washington manager Dusty Baker had an easy decision in letting Max Scherzer go the distance for the first time this season.
The way the 2016 NL Cy Young Award winner was pitching, he didn’t need help anyway.
Scherzer struck out 11 in a five-hitter and the Nationals beat the San Francisco Giants 3-1 on Wednesday night to complete a three-game sweep.
“When you’ve got an ace like that, who in the bullpen throws better than the guy that you have out there? That’s how you have to think about it,” Baker said. “In some case you do but in most cases, when Max is on, don’t. Who out there can deal the way he was dealing? Boy, that was masterful.”
Ryan Zimmerman hit his 15th homer, a three-run shot off Matt Cain (3-4) in the first inning that stood up.
Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner added two hits apiece to help Baker move within one win of becoming the 16th major league manager to reach 1,800 career victories.
Washington played without slugger Bryce Harper, who began serving a three-game suspension for his role in Monday’s bench-clearing brawl between the teams. Harper initially was suspended four games but had the penalty reduced and agreed to drop his appeal.
The game was a rematch of Game 4 in the 2012 World Series when Scherzer was with Detroit. Neither he nor Cain figured in the decision that time, but it was a different story Wednesday.
Scherzer (6-3) retired 10 straight to begin the game. He allowed more than one runner in an inning only once and didn’t walk a batter for the second time this season on the way to his seventh career complete game.
Just as critical, Scherzer retired the leadoff batter in every inning, which put him in control all night.
“Any time you get that leadoff man out, it’s huge,” Scherzer said. “When you get early contact, when you get early outs, then you can grind out some ABs and really try and make your stuff nasty.
“Because I was pounding the zone, I could tell that they were wanting to come out and try to do damage on that first pitch,” he added. “After the seventh, I knew my pitch count was low. I got some early outs in the eighth and I was fresh and ready to go for the ninth.”
Cain lost his third straight. The right-hander, who pitched 10 scoreless innings over two starts against the Nationals in 2016, allowed a pair of earned runs on eight hits in five innings.
Turner reached on shortstop Brandon Crawford’s fielding error and advanced to third on a hit-and-run single by Daniel Murphy. Zimmerman followed with his second home run in three games.
Eduardo Nunez rolled a grounder just past a diving Turner at shortstop in the fourth for San Francisco’s first hit. One batter later, Buster Posey lofted a fly to left-center but Jayson Werth and Michael A. Taylor appeared to miscommunicate, allowing the ball to drop in for a double as Nunez scored.
“We got a break with one run or we’d probably get shut out, to be honest,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “(Scherzer’s) done that to a lot of clubs. Still, we’ve got to get this offense going.”
SAY HEY MANIA
The Nationals got a pregame visit from Hall of Famer and Giants great Willie Mays, and for many it was their first glimpse of the Say Hey Kid. Mays was in Washington’s clubhouse autographing baseballs and took time to shake hands and chat with players like Scherzer, Werth, Zimmerman and Wilmer Difo. Mays repeatedly drew big laughs from the group assembled around him, including Baker and his son Darren, and at one point told Werth he couldn’t understand why today’s players use such small bats. “You can’t hit anything with those,” Mays said, drawing another round of laughs.
Giants: OF Hunter Pence went 1 for 2 with a walk in the first game of his rehab assignment with Class A San Jose. Pence played five innings and is scheduled for seven on Thursday. … LHP Madison Bumgarner played catch for a second straight day, this time from 75 feet, and the reports were good, according to Bochy.
Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg (6-1, 2.94 ERA) will make his first career start against the Athletics in the opener of a three-game series at Oakland on Friday.
Giants: LHP Ty Blach (3-2, 3.83) goes for his fourth consecutive win Friday in Philadelphia. It will be Blach’s first career appearance against the Phillies.
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