Scherzer returns, Nats top Pirates, 7-1
Scherzer threw 71 pitches in the outing, after manager Davey Martinez had indicated earlier in the day that he was going to limit his ace to 75-80 pitches after his return from a stint on the injured list dealing with a mild rhomboid strain in his right shoulder.
Scherzer had trouble early with command with his slider, which lengthened innings as he didn’t get punchouts with the usual aplomb.
He needed 60 pitches to get through his first three innings, but zipped through a 1-2-3 fourth ahead of being lifted by Martinez with a 2-1 lead.
The Nats bullpen, maligned as it has been this season, and rightly so, by and large, made the lead hold up, providing five scoreless innings, allowing just three Pittsburgh baserunners.
Washington broke the game open with a four-run eighth, keyed by a two-run homer by Howie Kendrick, his 14th of the season.
Anthony Rendon hit a solo homer in the ninth, his 28th.
The Nationals (70-57) were still not able to gain ground on NL East-leading Atlanta, which won again on Thursday, defeating Miami 3-2 on a Ronald Acuna Jr. walkoff hit, to remain six games up on the Nats in the division.
Washington has a two-game lead on St. Louis for the top NL wild-card spot, with the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies two back of the Cardinals for the second spot.
Story by Chris Graham