Sunday Star - - SPORTS -

pos­si­ble. A 10-0 game in the eighth in­ning was it. The right-han­der faced five bat­ters, al­lowed a hit and two runs, walked two bat­ters, hit another, threw a wild pitch and didn’t record an out be­fore Baker re­moved him. It was a com­plete dis­as­ter. And it was bet­ter than Trevor Gott’s night.

Gott, the other re­liever called up Fri­day, also didn’t record an out when he pitched in the ninth. In­stead, he faced five bat­ters — two of whom had en­tered the game as de­fen­sive re­place­ments dur­ing the blowout — and all scored. The last three crossed the plate on Scooter Gen­nett’s three-run home run.

Ear­lier, Daniel Mur­phy had two hits, in­clud­ing his ma­jor league­lead­ing 30th dou­ble in the fourth in­ning, which drove Bryce Harper in with two outs for the game’s first run. Mur­phy then scored on Ren­don’s first home run, a two-run blast. Ren­don fin­ished 3 for 3 with two walks and the two home runs.

Baker watched the All-Star Game while va­ca­tion­ing at Deep Creek Lake and, no dif­fer­ent from the rest of the au­di­ence, mar­veled at Scherzer’s in­ten­sity. At the grunt­ing with each pitch. At the words to him­self, most of them prob­a­bly un­suit­able for fam­ily tele­vi­sion. It was the trade­mark pas­sion Scherzer dis­plays ev­ery fifth day, only in a game lack­ing any con­se­quence.

“You could tell the way he was get­ting af­ter it for that one in­ning,” Baker said. “Man, he’d be a heck of a closer.”

Maybe Baker was day­dream­ing a bit. But that, of course, isn’t the best use of the re­source. Scherzer is one of the top three pitch­ers in the world, and tal­ents in that strato­sphere are op­ti­mally used gob­bling as many in­nings as pos­si­ble.

Scherzer en­tered Satur­day se­cond in that cat­e­gory across base­ball, and he passed Los An­ge­les Dodgers left-han­der Clay­ton Ker­shaw for first with his six-in­ning ef­fort. It didn’t ap­pear as if he would last that long early on. It wasn’t that Scherzer wasn’t over­pow­er­ing. He com­piled six strike­outs in two in­nings. The Reds (39-51) didn’t record an out that wasn’t a strike­out un­til the third in­ning, when Adam Du­vall popped out to the short­stop for the se­cond out. Scherzer fin­ished that in­ning with two more strike­outs.

The prob­lem was the tur­bu­lence that wel­comed Scherzer at the begin­ning of each frame. In the first in­ning, Billy Hamilton dou­bled on Scherzer’s first pitch of the night, and Zack Cozart fol­lowed with an eight-pitch walk. In the se­cond, Eu­ge­nio Suarez led off with a walk. In the third, Hamilton hit a lead-off sin­gle and stole se­cond base be­fore Cozart worked a 10-pitch walk.

Scherzer ma­neu­vered out of the trou­ble each time in dom­i­nant fash­ion, stock­pil­ing those eight strike­outs in three in­nings out of the stretch. But he also threw 62 pitches. The Reds were on pace to chase Scherzer early with­out scor­ing a run. But Scherzer, as he usu­ally does, set­tled in to dis­miss the Reds in a more ef­fi­cient fash­ion, toss­ing 33 pitches over the next three frames. He al­lowed two base run­ners dur­ing the stretch and added two strike­outs, giv­ing him 10 on the night to counter a sea­son-high four walks. It was his 12th dou­ble-digit strike­out per­for­mance in 2017 and ninth in his past 10 starts.

Baker’s early call to the bullpen cre­ated some drama, but Matt Grace ul­ti­mately re­placed Gott to record three straight outs in the ninth, and the Na­tion­als ab­sorbed the near melt­down thanks to that seven-run frenzy.

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