Scherzer and Nationals shut out Cards in pitching duel

St. Louis Cardinals

Washington Nationals starting pitcher Max Scherzer (31), throws during the third inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals in Washington, Wednesday, April 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

WASHINGTON (AP) – Max Scherzer struck out nine in six innings to move up to No. 21 on the career Ks leaderboard, and Alex Avila drove in the game’s lone run with one of his two doubles, helping the Washington Nationals edge the St. Louis Cardinals 1-0 on a windy Wednesday.

Scherzer (1-1) retired 12 of his last 13 batters, working in short sleeves as gusts of air topping 30 mph rippled his white jersey and sent napkins and other debris twirling around Nationals Park on a 50-degree late afternoon.

The three-time Cy Young Award winner struck out Dylan Carlson swinging through a 93 mph fastball with his 109th and final pitch. The righty’s strikeout of Justin Williams to end the fourth gave Scherzer 2,814 for his career, moving him one ahead of Hall of Famer Mike Mussina. Next up: Mickey Lolich, whose 2,832 strikeouts rank 20th in MLB history.

It wasn’t easy early for Scherzer, who loaded the bases with one out in the first inning via a hit batter, infield single and walk, but got out of it by striking out Carlson and Matt Carpenter.

Scherzer needed 49 pitches just to get through two innings, but he eventually got in a groove, giving up a total of four hits and one walk, while lowering his ERA to 1.80.

Washington scored in the second off Carlos Martínez (0-4) when Avila’s two-out double to left – his first hit as a member of the Nationals – scored Josh Bell from first base. Avila doubled to right in the fifth, but was stranded at third.

Martínez allowed four hits in six innings in his longest outing since going seven on July 7, 2018.

For the second game in a row, Nationals righty Tanner Rainey entered in relief in the seventh to protect a 1-0 lead.

On Tuesday, he put Washington in a hole by allowing two runs, before a comeback provided a 3-2 win for the Nationals. This time, he worked around a double by striking out the side.

In the eighth, Daniel Hudson gave up a hit and walked two batters to load the bases with two outs, but got Carpenter to fly out to right, before Brad Hand worked the ninth for his third save this season. It’s his 24th successful save chance in a row, the longest active streak in the majors.

The Cardinals have Thursday off before returning to Busch Stadium Friday for a weekend series hosting the Cincinnati Reds. The series marks the start of seventeen straight games for St. Louis. Before Wednesday’s game, Manager Mike Shildt said pitcher Johan Oviedo, who stood out when pressed into service last season and again in 2021 when he relieved Daniel Ponce De Leon in a long role April 11 against Milwaukee, said Oviedo would get recalled and inserted as part of the starting rotation during the consecutive game stretch.

Outfielder Tyler O’Neill, who has been rehabbing a groin injury, will play in a game environment Thursday, so a roster move to reactivate him could come as soon as Friday. Pitcher Miles Mikolas, who has been working his way back from injury, will throw a live BP session in the coming days, Shildt said.

FOX2’s Gregg Palermo also contributed information for this story

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trademark and Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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About the St. Louis Cardinals

The St. Louis Cardinals are one of Major League Baseball’s iconic franchises. The team with the “Birds on the Bat” have won more World Series titles than any other National League club, and are second only to the New York Yankees overall.

St. Louis has been home to a National League franchise since 1892, but the franchise wasn’t known as the Cardinals until 1900.

Behind future Hall of Fame second baseman Rogers Hornsby, the Cardinals won their first World Series in 1926 over the Babe Ruth/Lou Gehrig Yankees. The ‘Gashouse Gang’ era Cardinals dominated the 1930s thanks to Dizzy Dean, Johnny Mize and Joe Medwick and won the 1934 World Series.

Did you know that Branch Rickey, who would later rise to fame for bringing Jackie Robinson to the Major Leagues and breaking baseball’s color barrier, invented the minor league farm system we know today with the St. Louis Cardinals? It was Rickey who built a system of affiliate teams to grow talent that would later shine in St. Louis. In the 1930s and 1940s, that system produced the likes of future Hall of Famers Stan Musial, Red Schoendienst and Enos Slaughter, all of whom won World Series championships for the Cardinals.

The Musial-era Cardinals would later give way to a new generation, and it was Bob Gibson and Lou Brock who helped bring the World Series back to St. Louis in the 1960s. Gibson had one of the most dominant seasons in baseball history in 1968. He was so good baseball lowered the mound the following year.

The 1970s saw the end of the Gibson and Brock years, the trade of Steve Carlton to Philadelphia and the arrival of Keith Hernandez. Hernandez would share the 1979 NL MVP award with Pittsburgh’s Willie Stargell.

For the Cardinals, the 1980s could be summed up in a single word: Whiteyball. Behind Manager Whitey Herzog, baseball in St. Louis became synonymous with speed, stolen bases and defense. Shortstop Ozzie Smith was acquired from San Diego, and with Hernandez, second baseman Tommy Herr, a rookie outfielder named Willie McGee and closer Bruce Sutter, the Cardinals won the 1982 World Series over the Milwaukee Brewers. After Hernandez would dealt to the New York Mets, that core of players, along with slugger Jack Clark, would get the Cardinals to two more World Series trips that decade.

The 1980s saw the end of the Gussie Busch ownership era for the Cardinals. When he died in 1989, the Anheuser-Busch brewery took over after nearly 40 years under his watch.

In 1996 the brewery sold the club to the ownership group still led today by Bill DeWitt, Jr. The DeWitt family brought in former Oakland A’s manager Tony LaRussa, who would go on to be the winningest manager in team history. With another former Oakland hand running the front office in Walt Jocketty, the team acquired Mark McGwire from the A’s in 1997. The slugging first baseman would break Roger Maris’ single-season record for Home Runs in 1998 in a chase with Sammy Sosa that captivated the nation, only later to be tainted by the use of performance-enhancing drugs that McGwire admitted to years later.

In 2001, a young rookie named Albert Pujols burst on the St. Louis scene. Playing all over the field, he was the runaway winner of the National League MVP, setting the stage for the most dominant decade of offensive performance ever seen in a player’s first ten years in Major League Baseball. Catcher Yadier Molina came on board in 2004 as the Cardinals made their first World Series appearance since 1987. Two years later, a rookie pitcher named Adam Wainwright would fill in as the closer on a club that won its first World Series since 1982.

The Cardinals’ third World Series appearance in eight seasons may have been the most improbable when it came in 2011. A team that was left for dead at the start of September managed to roar into the playoffs on the last day of the regular season behind the pitching heroics of Chris Carpenter down the stretch. Once in the playoffs, the legend of David Freese was born. Freese, a St. Louis County native, won the National League Championship Series MVP by slugging three home runs against Milwaukee. Then in the World Series against Texas, down to the team’s last strike in what would have been a Rangers clincher, a Freese triple tied the game. A Freese home run in extra innings forced a Game 7, which the Cardinals won, bringing an 11th World Series crown home.

Albert Pujols left via free agency in the offseason and LaRussa retired, but the Cardinals kept moving forward, reaching the 2013 World Series against the Boston Red Sox with former catcher Mike Matheny now managing the club. In some respects, the Cardinals are still recovering from what happened October 26, 2014, when outfielder Oscar Taveras, considered a potentially generational talent who could have become the face of the franchise, died in a car accident in the Dominican Republic.

The Matheny era would last 6.5 seasons, until he was replaced by current manager Mike Shildt in 2018.

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