- - Tuesday, June 5, 2018

On Monday, Max Scherzer was leading cheers at the Capitals game.

Then on Tuesday, it was the Nationals’ ace who was hearing the cheers as he stood on the mound a few miles away at Nationals Park.

Scherzer put up some impressive numbers in a 4-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.

But it was not just 13 strikeouts and two runs allowed in eight innings that stood out.  He threw 81 strikes out of 99 pitches and threw a first-pitch strike to 25 of the 28 batters he faced.

“You put them behind the eight ball (with first-pitch strikes” he said. “Right now I feel good. Right now I feel good mechanically.”

And he feels good working with catcher Pedro Severino.

“We are on the same page,” Scherzer said.

Washington first baseman Matt Adams returned to the starting lineup Tuesday, after he fouled a ball of his foot Saturday in Atlanta.

And the left-handed slugger contributed right away, slamming a home run into the second deck in right field in the first inning as Scherzer won his league-high 10th game.

“He works fast,” Adams said of Scherzer. “It’s been fun to play behind him all year.”

The Nationals (34-25) began the day one game back of the first-place Atlanta Braves in the National League East. Washington is now 13-14 at home this season while their 21-11 road mark is best in the league.

“He was awesome tonight,” manager Dave Martinez said. “Max is Max. It is hard to compare him to anybody.”

Scherzer was upset at himself for not getting a bunt down while at the plate.

“Keep getting outs,” Martinez told him.

Adams hit his 13th homer of the season, this one off Tampa Bay starter Nathan Eovaldi (1-1), who making his second start of the season. Rookie left fielder Juan Soto, 19, followed with an infield single and later scored on a fielder’s choice to give the Nationals a 2-0 lead.

That was almost enough support for Scherzer (10-1). The Rays finally broke out on a two-out, two-run pinch-hit double by Brad Miller in the eighth to trim the margin to 4-2.

Scherzer struck out three batters on just nine pitches in the sixth inning against the Rays (28-31), who have lost five straight. The Nationals ace also struck out the side in the eighth, and closer Sean Doolittle threw the ninth to get his 15th save as he retired former Washington catcher Wilson Ramos for the final out on strikes.

By then, the Nationals had added two more runs in the fourth as Soto led off with a walk and scored on a triple by Wilmer Difo, who later scored on a wild pitch for a 4-0 advantage.

Washington have scored just 18 runs in the last seven games, and some reinforcements may not arrive until this weekend.

Injured second baseman Daniel Murphy, who has not played all year after October knee surgery, will remain with Double-A Harrisburg on a rehab assignment, manager Martinez said. Murphy started at second base and hit third on Tuesday for Harrisburg.

Left fielder Adam Eaton, on the disabled list since April 11, played for Single-A Potomac on Tuesday and hit a homer while making the start in center field. He is eligible to come off the disabled list Friday.

First baseman Ryan Zimmerman, on the disabled list since May 12 with a right oblique strain, is getting closer to a minor league rehab appearance, Martinez said.

Before the game, the Nationals placed starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson (hamstring) on the 10-day disabled list and sent right-hander Jefry Rodriguez to Double-A Harrisburg.

Hellickson left his start on Sunday in Atlanta in the first inning with his injury. Rodriguez took over in his first big league outing and did not allow a run as he pitched 4.2 innings.

“It’s a mild hamstring strain, so we’ll treat it like that,” Martinez said of Hellickson. “He’s going to miss a couple starts.”

Also on Tuesday, the Nationals brought back lefty reliever Matt Grace from the 10-day disabled list and Tim Collins, another lefty out of the bullpen, returned from the paternity list.

It was also a homecoming for Tampa Bay’s Ramos, who caught for the Nationals from 2010-16. He returned to Nationals Park and got a nice round of applause when he came to bat in the top of the second.

“I am happy to be here. A lot of good memories,” said Ramos, who caught three no-hitters while with the Nationals.

The two-game series ends Wednesday at 1:05 p.m. with Tanner Roark (2-5, 3.38) starting for the Nationals. Tampa Bay has not named its starter.

NOTES: It was Night Out at Nationals Park the ceremonial first pitch was thrown by Earl Fowlkes, chair of the D.C. Commission on Human Rights and President of the Center for Black Equity. Doolittle caught the toss … The Nationals picked pitchers Reid Schaller of Vanderbilt in the third round and Jake Irvin of Oklahoma in the fourth round Tuesday in the MLB draft. Washington has made 10 picks going into the final day on Wednesday.


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