- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 21, 2016

MIAMI (AP) - Christian Yelich reached 20 home runs in a season for the first time in his young career with the Miami Marlins.

Yelich hit a solo home run off Max Scherzer in an 8-3 loss to the Washington Nationals on Wednesday night.

The 24-year old outfielder had not hit more than nine home runs in a season before this year. He has a .299 average and a career-high 95 RBIs.

“There is still room for him (to grow as a hitter),” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “That was one of the first true pull homers we’ve seen from him that he gets the ball up in the air he hits it clean and gets the right angle. It’s coming. He’s only going to get better. Crossing those barriers, you start to know you can. To double (his homer total) in one season, your mind goes ‘I can do that.’”

Tom Koehler (9-12) allowed four runs - three earned - in four innings for the Marlins. They had won three in a row to stay in contention for the second wild card spot.

“It kind of leaves us in the same spot,” Mattingly said. “It would’ve been nice if we could have won and cut a game off. Hopefully the Dodgers win tonight.”

Scherzer (18-7) strengthened his case to be the NL Cy Young Award winner. He pitched 6 2-3 innings to tie for the National League victory lead with 18.

“When we needed shut-down innings I was able to go out there and put up zeroes when we really needed it and it helped get the offense going,” Scherzer said.

Scherzer allowed three runs and struck out eight to push his major league-leading total to 267. He’s tied for with Chicago’s Jon Lester for the most wins in the NL.

“He should be in strong consideration for a Cy Young,” Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. “I talked to him earlier and I gave him a number and said let’s win six or seven of them and he said, ‘I want to win all of them.’ That’s the attitude you want and that’s the attitude that he carries and the guys love playing behind him.”

Ryan Zimmerman hit a three-run homer and Trea Turner also homered for the Nationals.

“We got some good offensive days out of some guys especially after our offense was a little sleepy the last couple of days,” Baker said.

Washington ended a four-game losing streak and lowered their magic number to two to win the NL East over the New York Mets with a chance to clinch on Friday at Pittsburgh.

“I’ve never been a part of anything like this, but it’s exciting,” Turner said. “Every game means something even down the stretch playing for home-field advantage or whatever it may be. It’s exciting and I enjoy it.”

Yelich hit a solo home run and Derek Dietrich hit a two-run homer to chase Scherzer in the seventh and cut it to 6-3.

Prior to the home runs allowed by Yelich and Dietrich, Scherzer had only allowed two hits.

“Obviously there in the seventh-of course I’m frustrated about that,” Scherzer said. “You can’t walk away from an outing like that feeling great when you give up two home runs especially when your last pitch is a home run. But you’ll beat yourself up and drive yourself crazy if you try to sit here every single start worrying about the negatives. This start had way more positives and that’s what I’m going to focus on.”

Wilson Ramos had an RBI double and scored on a sacrifice fly in the eighth to extend the Nationals’ lead to 8-3.

Washington scored its first run when Koehler’s pick-off throw to second went into centerfield and Yelich was unable to field it cleanly allowing Danny Espinosa to score.

Zimmerman’s three-run homer, his 15th, to left field gave the Nationals a 4-0 lead in the fourth.

“You can’t really afford to spot Max a 4-0 lead,” Koehler said. “More times than not he gets four runs, he’s not going to give it back.”

Jayson Werth had an RBI single and Turner hit his 12th home run for a 6-0 advantage.


Marlins: RF Giancarlo Stanton was held out of the lineup after starting and homering in the last two games. “Medical says he felt he needed a day so we gave a day,” Mattingly said. … LHP Adam Conley (finger) pitched a three-inning simulation game Wednesday with hopes of returning to the team before the season ends.


Nationals: LHP Gio Gonzalez (11-10, 4.48) will take the mound on Friday in Pittsburgh against RHP Jameson Tailon (4-4, 3.39) to begin a three-game series against the Pirates in the final road trip of the season. Gonzalez has allowed six runs in two of his last three starts.

Marlins: RHP Jose Urena (4-7, 5.59) will start Thursday’s game against Atlanta RHP Josh Collmenter (2-0, 4.61). Urena allowed seven runs in two innings in his last start at Philadelphia.

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