Jul 12, 2015, 3:58 PM EDT
GAME IN A NUTSHELL: Max Scherzer entered Sunday’s series (and first-half) finale with an unfortunate past at Camden Yards, most recently featuring his debacle of a start in Game 1 of the 2014 American League Division Series. That history, however, did not carry over whatsoever in what was an overall dominant performance in the Nationals’ final game before the All-Star break.
Scherzer allowed a solo home run to Adam Jones in the first inning, but settled in nicely afterwards to finish with 8 2/3 innings. He was removed after Jones’ second homer with two outs in the ninth. Drew Storen retired Chris Davis to record his 27th save of the season.
The Nationals rode a big fourth inning powered by fill-ins Dan Uggla and Tyler Moore to give Scherzer all the run support he would need opposite of Orioles’ starter Wei-Yin Chen.
With the 3-2 win the Nationals snapped a three-game losing streak and moved to 48-39 on the season. That breaks down to a .552 winning percentage, which is better than their .548 mark at the break last season.
Here is how they have finished the first half in each of the last five seasons:
2015 – 48-39 (.552)
2014 – 51-42 (.548)
2013 – 48-47 (.505)
2012 – 49-34 (.590)
2011 – 46-46 (.500)
HITTING HIGHLIGHT: The fourth inning was key for the Nationals, as they scored three runs in a two-out rally. Yunel Escobar got them started with a leadoff single before Bryce Harper (flyout) and Wilson Ramos (strikeout) brought it to two outs.
Clint Robinson, though, kept it going with a single to left field and Uggla promptly lined a single to center. That scored Escobar and Uggla move to second on an error by Jones. With two runners in scoring position, Moore roped a double to the gap in right-center field. That scored two more and put the Nats up 3-1 after they entered the inning trailing by one run.
PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: Scherzer began the game with two strikeouts against Manny Machado and Jimmy Paredes and got Jones to two strikes in the third at-bat. But then Jones got a hold of a down-and-away slider and pulled it over the fence in left field. It was Jones’ 179th career home run as an Orioles player, tying him with Frank Robinson for eighth all-time in franchise history. He later passed Robinson on the list with No. 180 in the ninth inning.
After the first homer, Scherzer retired the next 17 batters he faced before giving up two singles in the sixth. Scherzer finished with nine innings of two-run ball on four hits with no walks and seven strikeouts. The Nats’ ace hasn’t allowed a walk since June 14, a span of five starts and 39 2/3 innings.
KEY STAT: Escobar has multiple hits in 26 of his 78 games this season and holds a .321 batting average.
UP NEXT: The Nationals take a four-day break for the All-Star Game before returning to action on Friday against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The pitching matchups have not been announced, but it will be hard to go wrong given the choices for managers Matt Williams and Don Mattingly. Scherzer is likely to start Friday night and he could face off against either Clayton Kershaw or Zack Greinke. Either way it will be a matchup of two of the best pitchers in the game today.
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
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