On its face, Game 2 of a rain-forced doubleheader against the Toronto Blue Jays seemed like a near-lock for the Washington Nationals. Max Scherzer, among the NL’s best starters on the young season, was to square off at home against ex-Nat Marco Estrada, who gave up the most home runs in baseball last year en route to -0.2 fWAR.
But it was Estrada who got the better of his Cy Young-winning costar. He gave up just two earned runs on six hits against a lineup featuring only four regulars, as the Jays (24-30) topped the Nationals (29-23) to split the twin bill.
On gut instinct, the above feels true. Scherzer has been so excellent as a Nat that anything short of perfection feels disappointing. His 6 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 5 would be simply mediocre for any other pitcher. But, of course, not every pitcher gets paid $210 million.
Scherzer’s command was lacking all night. He walked two batters after walking just 10 in 71.2 innings this season. He gave up two home runs, both to Kevin Pillar, after having given up just three all year. Pillar had been hitting .223/.263/.321 on the year. As a result of this, Scherzer went just six innings, matching his shortest outing of the year.
Manager Matt Williams put it best, saying: “He did OK. He’s not going to be perfect every time out.”
Treinen Scuffles More
Ever the optimist, I have been singing Blake Treinen’s praises on Twitter recently. And the numbers are there to back me up: his line in his previous five appearances was 9.2 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 13 K. Now that’s one hell of a reliever.
But Treinen walked 12 guys in his previous 10.1 IP over nine appearances, giving up five runs in the process. The key for him is command, something he has yet to show consistently. And consistency is key for him if he wants to claim a prominent role in Williams’ bullpen.
Postgame, Williams stressed that Treinen has to ensure that he is locating his sinker and inducing ground balls,
“For him, it’s not about corners, it’s about down,” Williams said. “He was elevated tonight.”
Michael Taylor started both games in center in relief of Denard Span, who is still suffering from a sore knee. The only similarity between Span and his understudy is their superlative defense; their offensive approaches could not be more different. Taylor swings often and for the fences, though he’s found nothing but air more often than not recently.
After going 1-for-4 with a double and three strikeouts in the nightcap, Taylor has 48 Ks in his first 121 plate appearances this season, good for a ghastly 40% strikeout rate. As a rookie, his struggles are understandable. But no matter his defense or power, Taylor has to make more contact to stick as an MLB regular.
“It’s part of his maturation process,” Williams said. “For Mike, it’s about swinging at a good pitch.”