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