- Associated Press - Sunday, May 22, 2016

MIAMI — Even when Max Scherzer eases up on the strikeouts, he can be plenty tough. Just ask the Miami Marlins.

Scherzer fanned eight — a modest total by his recent standards — and allowed only two runs in eight innings Sunday to help the Washington Nationals beat Miami, 8-2.

Scherzer (5-3) gave up six hits, walked none and threw 103 pitches. He has 38 strikeouts in his past three starts, including a record-tying 20 against the Detroit Tigers, but relied mostly on weak contact rather than whiffs against Miami.

“I felt like I had good command of all the off-speed pitches,” Scherzer said. “That’s what I most proud about. It gives you a lot of options because you have all of them working.”

Nationals manager Dusty Baker agreed.

“He was throwing great,” Baker said. “It was a pleasure to watch.”

Justin Bour ended Scherzer’s shutout bid by pulling a changeup for a two-run home run in the seventh inning — his ninth home run this season and his second in as many games.

Scherzer has allowed 14 home runs this year, including nine in his past four starts. Even so, with an uncharacteristically high 3.80 ERA, the three-time all-star feels his year is headed in the right direction.

“I’m kind of getting in midseason form,” Scherzer said. “Sometimes it takes a few starts. Every start I keep getting a little sharper.”

Washington (27-17) won the three-game series and took a 7-6 edge in the season series. Miami (22-21) will host the next meeting of the National League East foes on Sept. 19.

Nationals center fielder Ben Revere had three hits, two runs, two RBI and his first two stolen bases of the year, hiking his average to .185. Baker said Revere is beginning to find his form after missing 27 games early in the season an oblique strain.

“Our igniter,” Baker said. “He just had to play and get his timing.”

Anthony Rendon drove in three runs with a double and a triple, and was robbed of another hit when center fielder Marcell Ozuna leaped into the 407-foot sign to make a catch.

Wilson Ramos had two hits and reached base four times. Daniel Murphy, who entered leading the majors in batting, went 1-for-4 to drop his average to .387. Bryce Harper went hitless but walked twice and drove in Washington’s first run with a sacrifice fly.

Most of the damage was against Adam Conley (3-3), who allowed six runs and walked seven batters, three intentionally, in 5 1/3 innings. His ERA in four career starts against Washington rose to 8.50.

“Putting a guy on for free is about my least favorite thing in baseball,” Conley said, “and seven of those guys got on in my eyes without earning it. That’s a hard pill to swallow.”

Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton ended an 0-for-19 drought, lining a Scherzer slider up the middle for a single in the fifth. He also struck out twice and finished 1-for-4 and is 5-for-52 with 28 strikeouts over the past 15 games.

“For me, the guy’s seeing the ball better,” manager Don Mattingly said. “You see a guy with more takes, and usually once that starts happening he’s going to start hitting better.”

Said Baker: “It’s just a matter of time. You hate to see a dangerous hitter cold, because you just don’t know when he’s going to break out of it.”

Teammate Ichiro Suzuki singled twice off Scherzer, and a third hit was erased by a replay reversal. The 42-year-old Suzuki overtook Wee Willie Keeler for 32nd place with 2,956 hits and he’s batting .382.

But Scherzer retired 11 in a row during one stretch, and didn’t allow more than one baserunner in an inning until the seventh.

“He was rolling pretty good there,” Mattingly said. “There really wasn’t a whole lot of traffic out there.”

The Marlins have lost four of their past five games while totaling nine runs.

Left-hander Gio Gonzalez (3-1, 1.86 ERA) is scheduled to start Monday when the Nationals begin a seven-game homestand with a three-game series against the New York Mets. Gonzalez has a lifetime record of 10-4 against the Mets, who are set to turn to Bartolo Colon (3-3, 3.75 ERA).

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