In the latest battle between the two National League East heavyweights, Scherzer knocked out Stanton in three rounds. In doing so, and in leading the Washington Nationals to a convincing 11-2 victory over the streaking Miami Marlins, Scherzer served notice that despite spending the last week and a half on the disabled list, he’s pretty much good as new. Or good as old, as the case may be.
Even though he allowed a home run to Stanton earlier this month, Scherzer’s historically had the Miami masher’s number. Entering Monday, Stanton was a pedestrian 4-for-15 lifetime off the Nats ace, including seven whiffs. According to ESPN Stats & Info, among hurlers that Stanton had faced at least 15 times, only Ervin Santana, Tyler Clippard and Matt Harvey had a higher K rate against him. But Stanton came to D.C. this week as the hottest hitter on the planet. Any planet, really.
In the three weeks since homering off Scherzer on Aug. 7, Stanton had launched another 13 bombs in 19 games to give him 50 on the season. It marked the first time in over a half-century that a player hit his 50th jack before anybody else reached 40 (Willie Mays, 1965). The reigning NL Player of the Week, Stanton was 10-for-15 over his last four games, with four homers, two doubles and nine RBIs. Despite all the white heat emanating from his general vicinity, Scherzer treated him as rudely as ever.
In the top of the first inning, following a leadoff bunt single by Dee Gordon, Scherzer threw Stanton a 1-1 slider on the inner half that resulted in a 5-4-3 double play. Round 1 to Scherzer.
In the top of the fourth, with none on and none out, Scherzer got Stanton swinging with a filthy 1-2 slider that dipped below the bottom of the strike zone. Round 2 to Scherzer.
In the top of sixth, with Stanton leading off again, Scherzer rung up the mammoth Marlin once more on three straight pitches, culminating with 95 mph high heat. Round 3 to Scherzer.
Just like that, Stanton was on the mat. Including an eighth inning groundout against reliever Matt Grace, Stanton finished the night 0-for-4 with two whiffs, marking the first time in six weeks that he went hitless with multiple punchouts in the same game.
That’s not to say that Scherzer was perfect. He walked two batters and plunked another one. He served up an opposite-field bomb to Christian Yelich and allowed more than his typical share of loud outs. His average fastball velocity (93.7) was down a smidge. But given that he tallied 10 K’s and threw nearly 70 percent strikes, all while limiting Stanton and the scorching Marlins to just a run on five hits, it’s probably safe to say his return was a success.
“He threw the ball well,” said catcher Matt Wieters. “His off-speed stuff was very good tonight. His fastball command came around as the game went on. I think he kind of early was feeling for his fastball a little bit. But after about the second inning it was vintage Max.”
Especially against Miami’s big bopper.
“You’ve got to be aggressive,” said Scherzer of his approach against Stanton. “Look, we all know how good he is. Everybody knows he can take you deep at any moment. But you can’t really worry about that. You got to have the belief that you can make pitches and get him out. Today worked out in my favor, but I just know facing him, you make a mistake, that ball can go a long way.”
On Monday, Scherzer didn’t make any mistakes against Stanton. As a result, instead of knocking it out of the park like he’s been doing on a regular basis, Stanton got TKO’d.