- Associated Press - Friday, May 27, 2016

WASHINGTON (AP) - Max Scherzer realized his mistake, but not soon enough, not before the ball left the yard. He claimed it wasn’t the exact same issue as all those other home runs he’s allowed this season. The scoreboard didn’t recognize the difference.

Stephen Piscotty hit a grand slam off Scherzer during a five-run third inning and Jaime Garcia quieted the Washington Nationals lineup as the St. Louis Cardinals won 6-2 on Friday night.

Scherzer allowed two earned runs in each of his previous three starts including his 20-strikeout gem on May 11 in a victory over Detroit. That version didn’t show early against St. Louis. He walked four batters and allowed five runs, all by the third inning.

The right-hander surrendered three hits over seven innings. One hurt more than the others.

“It was a dumb pitch,” Scherzer said of the pitch to Piscotty. “I hadn’t shown my fastball yet and I threw another slider and I hung it. He put a good swing on it, ended in a blast.”

Scherzer, who finished with six strikeouts, then reversed course by retiring the final 14 batters he faced. He leads the majors with 15 home runs allowed and has alternated wins and losses over his last six starts.

“I know I’ve been giving up a ton of home runs,” Scherzer said, “but that one, that’s just an execution thing. That’s just me not throwing the right pitch at the right time and with poor execution.”

Coming off consecutive ineffective starts, Garcia held Washington to two runs and seven hits over seven innings. The Cardinals had lost four of five.

Danny Espinosa’s second home run in as many games broke up Garcia’s shutout bid in the fifth.

Bryce Harper went 1 for 4 after hitting the go-ahead home run in Washington’s 2-1 series-opening win Thursday.

Greg Garcia homered for St. Louis.

Jaime Garcia’s one-out single in the third was the first hit off Scherzer and started a stretch of five straight batters to reach base. After Scherzer walked Matt Holliday with the bases loaded to score Garcia, Piscotty made it 5-0 with his first career grand slam deep into the stands in left field.

“It wasn’t the home run pitch,” Nationals manager Dusty Baker said of Scherzer’s troubles. “It was the walks before the home run. That’s what really hurt.”

With the victory, St. Louis improved to 25-24, avoiding falling below .500 for the first time since a 13-14 record on May 3.

Garcia gave up eight runs and 15 hits combined over his last two starts. In his previous outing against the Nationals this season, he allowed four runs over 6 1/3 innings in a 6-1 home loss on April 30.

“You can tell when his (sinker) is there,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of Garcia. “He had very good movement and used his changeup and slider, but the sinker was a great pitch for him tonight.”

STRANDED AT THE DRIVE-IN: Washington went 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position. Harper and Ryan Zimmerman each grounded into double plays with two runners on base. Zimmerman’s scored Harper in the sixth to make the score 5-2.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Nationals: RHP Taylor Jordan, who pitched for the Nationals during each of the previous three seasons, underwent Tommy John surgery on Thursday. Jordan, who made three appearances for Triple-A Syracuse this season, had the same procedure in 2011.

UP NEXT

Cardinals: RHP Adam Wainwright (4-3, 5.77 ERA) makes his first appearance against the Nationals since 2014. He is 7-3 with a 2.18 ERA all-time versus Washington.

Nationals: LHP Gio Gonzalez (3-2, 2.87) allowed seven runs and 10 hits over five innings in his previous start, a 7-1 loss to the New York Mets.

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