Right-hander Max Scherzer, a seven-time All-Star and a three-time Cy Young Award winner, will try to get his Washington Nationals back on track on Saturday in the first game of a doubleheader against the visiting Miami Marlins.
Scherzer (2-1, 3.71 ERA) is coming off perhaps his poorest performance of the season. He allowed a season-worst five runs in seven innings but he also struck out 10 batters in a 6-5 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday.
“We won,” Scherzer said matter-of-factly. “That’s the most important thing.”
Against the Marlins, Scherzer is 13-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 22 career starts.
Miami will counter Scherzer with a rookie left-hander, Daniel Castano, who was supposed to pitch Thursday, but the game in Miami was postponed when a New York Mets player and staff member tested positive for COVID-19.
Castano (0-1, 4.35 ERA) had never made it past Double-A prior to this season. He is far from overpowering, but the former 19th-round pick out of Baylor by the St. Louis Cardinals has shown he can mix off-speed pitches effectively.
Even so, this will be just Castano’s third major league start, and his first against Washington.
While neither team had announced its pitcher for Saturday’s second game, the Marlins are looking better than expected overall … and the reverse can be said about the Nationals.
Indeed, nearing the halfway point of this abbreviated season, the Nationals — reigning World Series champions — are not looking anything like baseball royalty.
The Nationals are just 4-9 at home, and Friday’s 3-2 loss to Miami in the opener of this five-game series was surely mystifying for Washington fans.
Nationals left-hander Patrick Corbin made just one major mistake — a hanging sinker that Miguel Rojas crushed for a three-run homer in the second inning.
Washington’s offense failed to get Corbin off the hook. Other than solo homers by Trea Turner and Yan Gomes, the Nationals never got a runner past second base.
The Nationals’ final seven batters went down in order, showing little fight.
Meanwhile, the Marlins, who snapped their five-game losing streak, did just enough to win.
Rojas, who went 2-for-4 and is hitting .643 with two homers in 14 at-bats, hadn’t played since July 26, when a total of 18 Marlins landed on the COVID-19 list.
“I wanted to set the tone for the rest of the guys,” Rojas said after Friday’s win. “The emotions were there.
“It feels great to help the team. After almost a month out, I was nervous. I wanted to make an impact right away.”
Besides Rojas, the Marlins have activated two other key players for this series.
Catcher Jorge Alfaro, who had also been on the COVID-19 list, made his season debut on Friday, playing DH and going 1-for-4. Alfaro singled on the first pitch he saw but then flied out and struck out twice.
Right fielder Jesus Sanchez, Miami’s fifth-ranked prospect, made his major league debut on Friday and went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.
However, Sanchez charged in to make a stellar shoe-top catch in the bottom of the ninth, taking a hit from Asdrubal Cabrera as the Nationals came up short in their attempt to rally.
–Field Level Media