Scherzer gets mile­stone strike­out, but Na­tion­als swept by Rangers.

Scherzer hits mile­stone, falls to junk-baller, Rangers

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY TODD DYBAS

The­o­ret­i­cal sug­ges­tion can be ap­plied to games like Sun­day’s. It goes like this: Since the out­come seems so ap­par­ent pregame based on the par­tic­i­pants, the op­po­site out­come is al­most as­sured, the uni­verse work­ing in re­v­erse just to keep ev­ery­one awake. This is the re­v­erse-lock the­ory, a builder of casi­nos, a damn­ing day for the fa­vored.

It was ap­pli­ca­ble at Na­tion­als Park. Max Scherzer, two-time Cy Young Award win­ner, strike­out pro­ducer, poster boy, $210 mil­lion man, on the mound for the Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als. Austin Bibens-Dirkx, sec­ond ca­reer start, the same age as Scherzer, 32, cel­e­brat­ing be­ing here in the ma­jor leagues af­ter 12 years in the mi­nors, de­but­ing out of the bullpen May 17.

And, yet.

The Rangers fin­ished a week­end sweep of the Na­tion­als thanks to Bibens-Dirkx junk-balling his way to 19 con­sec­u­tive outs in one stretch, out­du­el­ing Scherzer. The Na­tion­als’ never-end­ing bullpen prob­lems con­trib­uted to the 5-1 loss, too.

In the midst of an­other head-shak­ing day, was a mile­stone for Scherzer. He turned No­mar Maraza into his 2,000th ca­reer strike­out with a 90 mph slider in the fourth in­ning. Only two pitch­ers, Randy John­son and Pe­dro Martinez, have reached the to­tal in fewer in­nings. Scherzer was pleased after­ward as much as he could be, which is to say not much af­ter the Rangers scored four runs in the eighth in­ning.

“It’s re­ally cool, but, one of these days, I’ll ac­tu­ally re­flect upon it,” Scherzer said. “St­ings a lit­tle bit when you get it in a loss.”

It was an odd day. Not just be­cause Bibens-Dirkx was named the win­ner and Scherzer the loser. More so the way it hap­pened.

Brian Good­win hit the sec­ond pitch Bibens-Dirkx threw for a home run. As­sump­tions were quickly be­ing val­i­dated that the right-handed jour­ney­man who spent much of 2012 in the Na­tion­als’ mi­nor league sys­tem wouldn’t be much of a match for Scherzer. In­stead, he kept throw­ing cut fast­balls, change­ups and any­thing but straight or im­pres­sively hard. He wound his way through the Na­tion­als lineup mul­ti­ple times, sur­viv­ing through seven in­nings, lop­ping al­most a run off his ERA in just his sec­ond ca­reer start.

Bibens-Dirkx’s path to the ma­jor leagues is filled with twists. He has pitched for Wash­ing­ton, Texas, Toronto, Colorado, the Chicago Cubs, Seat­tle, in the Do­mini­can and Venezue­lan win­ter leagues, plus twice in in­de­pen­dent leagues. Sun­day, he put to­gether a front-porch tale for when his shoul­der aches too much and the kids run­ning by ask grandpa about when he threw

the base­ball: seven in­nings, three hits, one earned run to earn as many wins as Scherzer has Cy Young Awards, two.

“Ev­ery­body’s frus­trated,” Scherzer said.

That would in­clude man­ager Dusty Baker, who again has a bullpen prob­lem on his hands. Scherzer was re­moved with one out in the eighth in­ning. Two run­ners were on, one be­cause of a field­ing er­ror by An­thony Ren­don on what was in­ter­nally viewed as a bad hop. An­other, Jurick­son Pro­far, be­cause of Scherzer’s lone walk of the day. That meant Shin Soo Choo, Scherzer’s per­sonal boogey­man, was com­ing up.

Choo was 12-for-21 in his ca­reer against Scherzer, good for a .571 av­er­age and plenty head-scratch­ing, be­fore the game be­gan. In the first in­ning, Choo hit a small fly ball to left field that landed for a hit. In the third, he hit a 98 mph fast­ball, Scherzer’s fastest of the day, over the wall in cen­ter field. Scherzer throws four pitches. Choo saw them all in his first two at-bats. He did not make an out and in­stead con­tin­ued his per­sonal blud­geon­ing of one of the league’s elite pitch­ers. Baker’s de­ci­sion to reach into the bullpen was sim­ple.

Oliver Perez en­tered. He walked Choo on four pitches. That led to Blake Treinen com­ing in. His first pitch went by catcher Matt Wi­eters, scor­ing the go-ahead run. His fourth pitch bounded by Ren­don, who was part of the drawn-in in­field. Two more runs scores. A sac­ri­fice fly fin­ished Texas’ four-run in­ning. The fans booed.

“It’s not easy to swal­low, but there’s not a whole bunch you can do about that,” Baker said. “That ball (for the triple) had to hit the chalk or be just in­side the chalk. Bound­ing high enough where An­thony didn’t even jump for it. It was a bad week­end. We’ve got to get rid of it. Go get some rest tonight. Come back against the Braves smok­ing to­mor­row.”

Wash­ing­ton has lost four of five. Its bullpen took an­other blow Sun­day when closer Koda Glover went on the dis­abled list. The Na­tion­als’ bulky Na­tional League East lead is less than 10 games for the first time this month. A minia­ture slide has fol­lowed a high-rid­ing West Coast trip. Scherzer ver­sus Bibens-Dirkx was sup­posed to level the Na­tion­als off. In­stead, it was an­other check­mark for the re­v­erse-lock the­ory. Story time will come later in life.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS PHO­TOGRAPHS

Fans sa­lute Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als start­ing pitcher Max Scherzer af­ter he is re­lieved in the eighth in­ning of Sun­day’s 5-1 loss to the Texas Rangers.

Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als out­fielder Bryce Harper sin­gles in the first in­ning on Sun­day. In just his sec­ond ca­reer start, Texas Rangers pitcher Austin Bibens-Dirkx re­tired 19 con­sec­u­tive hit­ters in one stretch.

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