- - Friday, June 22, 2018

Before Thursday’s game between the Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles, Nationals manager Dave Martinez said his pitching staff’s recent susceptibility to the home run ball should work itself out.

The last time Washington pitching didn’t allow a home run in a contest was June 5. Still, the Nationals’ 3.40 team ERA is third best in MLB.

“We’ve been giving up a lot of homers, which, to me, is kind of, like, uncharacteristic,” Martinez said. “But I think that’ll go away.”

At the center of the trend rests Nationals ace Max Scherzer, who is compiling what could be a third-consecutive Cy Young-winning season. He has the third-lowest ERA in the league while striking out a league-high 161 batters.

But in Thursday’s 4-2 Washington win, Scherzer surrendered two solo homers. It was the first time he had allowed multiple home runs in a game since July 21, 2017, and it was his third consecutive contest in which he gave up a longball. He settled down, though, after Colby Rasmus and Mark Trumbo hit solo shots and Juan Soto’s two-run double in the eighth secured a lead the Nationals wouldn’t relinquish.



“Whenever he’s on the mound, you know runs are going to come at a premium,” Baltimore starter Kevin Gausman said. “That type of guy, two runs is tough, you know? He’s obviously one of the best pitchers in the game and has been for a long time, so you know he’s going to go seven innings just about every time he pitches.”

Since joining the Nationals in 2015 from the Detroit Tigers, Scherzer has allowed fewer runs per year than he did in the American League in all but one season. But a larger percentage of those runs have come from home runs. In 2011, 28.7 percent of the 101 runs he allowed came via the longball, his highest count with the Tigers.

Scherzer hasn’t had that percentage drop below 35.5 percent in his four seasons in Washington. This year, with 10 homers part of the 28 runs he’s allowed, Scherzer’s percentage is 35.7. In 2016, when he won his second Cy Young award, Scherzer allowed a career-high 40.3 percent of runs to come off homers.

A higher home run count hasn’t affected his overall success, though. Scherzer’s 10 wins is third-best in MLB. He’s thrown the second-most innings of any pitcher. He has the third-lowest batting average against him and the third-best WHIP in the league. An occasional home run, especially with the potential of Washington’s offense, shouldn’t sidetrack another historic season.

“What will also make it go away is, we start scoring a bunch of runs,” Martinez said. “We showed signs that we’re going to, and then the next day or two we don’t. So, we gotta get some kind of consistency with our lineup and start scoring runs. We do that, our pitching staff’s really good.”

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