- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 27, 2017

A matchup between pitchers Max Scherzer and Jake Arrieta — the last two winners of the NL Cy Young — meant the margin for error for the Washington Nationals and Chicago Cubs was that much smaller.

“Anytime you have a premier matchup, it boils down to which team makes the most mistakes,” Nationals manager Dusty Baker said before the game.

The Nationals were practically mistake free Tuesday, beating the Cubs 6-1 and took advantage of a series of the Cubs‘ miscues.

Namely, the Nationals (46-31) set a team record with seven stolen bases and ran circles around Cubs backup catcher Miguel Montero and Arrieta.

“We had to take advantage of every situation that you can,” Baker said. “Also, you have to have different games. Sometimes you have to win with speed and contact. Sometimes you have to win with power. So it’s nice to know you can call upon both those games whenever you need them.”

Arrieta (7-6, 4.67 ERA) continued his season-long slump, throwing 98 pitches and allowing five earned runs in just 4 ⅔ innings. The 31-year-old has lost around two miles of velocity on his fastball and is far removed from his 1.77 ERA in his 2015 Cy Young winning season.

The Nationals first got on the board in the first inning when Brian Goodwin had an RBI single to bring home Trea Turner from third. Turner was in a prime position to come home, having stolen second and third base.

Turner tied his own franchise record with four steals, set previously on June 18 against the New York Mets. He had four stolen bases by just the third inning.

“I knew that Arrieta was slower to the plate, so I just wanted to be aggressive and make sure I was taking good chances,” Turner said.

And because the Nationals had constant success stealing bases, Washington was able to score that much easier. There was no need for a furious rally like Monday’s ninth inning last-ditch effort to try and erase a 5-0 hole, ultimately coming up short in a 5-4 loss. Rather, Michael A. Taylor’s RBI double made it 6-1 in the fifth.

There was also a stretch of odd plays that contributed to the final score. Scherzer picked up his second RBI of the year with a single in the fourth to make it 3-1. During the inning before, the Cubs‘ Tommy La Stella committed a throwing error at first base, which allowed Turner to score.

Mistakes cost the Cubs and Baker was right. But in comparing Scherzer’s performance to Arrieta‘s, Scherzer-Arrieta might not be considered a premier matchup for much longer.

Scherzer (9-5, 2.06 ERA) delivered a workmanlike effort as usual, but it was perhaps his most drama free outing of the season.

He allowed just two hits, one run over the course of six innings. Scherzer’s 93 pitches were a season-low, especially glaring given he was coming off a 121-pitch game in a failed no-hit bid to the Miami Marlins on June 21. Against the Marlins, Scherzer had a no-hitter until the eighth inning, proceeding to give up two earned runs in a 2-1 loss.

Despite the effectiveness, Scherzer didn’t believe he had his A-game.

“I made what I had work tonight, Scherzer said. “Coming off a couple outings in a row where my pitch count’s really gotten up there, I didn’t really have great fastball command tonight, but I was able to use my off-speed to kind of collect outs when I needed to and I didn’t walk anybody. With a lineup like that, if you don’t walk anybody, that’s a big part of help keeping them at bay.”

On a night that featured two Cy Young pitchers, only Scherzer looked like he could win another, even if he wasn’t at his best.

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