WASHINGTON (AP) — Wind that topped 30 mph and sent napkins twirling around Nationals Park rippled Max Scherzer’s white jersey and dried out his hands.
His forearm was a little sore from trying to grip the baseball hard enough to control where it would go when he let it fly. He loaded the bases in the first inning and needed 49 pitches just to get through two.
Scherzer figured things out, retired 12 his last 13 batters and struck out nine in six innings to move up to No. 21 on the career K’s leaderboard, helping the Washington Nationals edge the St. Louis Cardinals 1-0 Wednesday.
“That’s when it gets fun,” the three-time Cy Young Award winner said. “All you can do is attack the zone and let them hit outs.”
He struck out Dylan Carlson swinging through a 93 mph fastball with his 109th and final pitch. The righty’s strikeout of Justin Williams to end the fourth gave Scherzer 2,814 for his career, moving him one ahead of Hall of Famer Mike Mussina. Next up: Mickey Lolich, whose 2,832 strikeouts rank 20th in MLB history.
“He’s one of the best. He knows what he needs to do,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “He had a rough go in the first inning and you could see him settling down a little bit.”
Not before a bit of an adventure in the first, which included a hit batter, infield single and walk, but Scherzer (1-1) escaped by striking out Carlson and Matt Carpenter.
“You get a guy on his heels a little bit … I did feel like we were going to be able to do some things, but he got better as he went,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “It would have been nice to cash in.”
Scherzer ended up allowing four hits and one walk and lowering his ERA to 1.80.
Alex Avila drove in the game’s lone run in the second off Carlos Martínez (0-4) with one of…