Max Scherzer said the standings don’t matter at this time of year. Yeah, they don’t because the Washington Nationals and Scherzer have a double digit lead in the division over the New York Mets after their 7-2 win at Citi Field Friday night. This night it was Scherzer recording his fifth straight double digit strikeout game and the Nationals continuing their dominance against the Mets.
It was Scherzer handling the Mets up and down in the lineup. And Mets manager Terry Collins devised his lineup to try and figure out how to get to the righthander. But Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes and Jay Bruce as the top three could do nothing,
Bruce, though got to the weak link of the Nationals pitching woes , the bullpen hitting a line drive homer to right in the ninth inning.
A home run that went against the Nationals bullpen that continues to be their major issue. But when you have Scherzer, a two-time Cy Young Award winner and throwing his best fastball and slider, the task is difficult.
“He’s one of the best in the game,” Collins said. “You cannot let him take the lead. His location gets better. He’s not one to waste pitches.” The Mets know that Scherzer is serious business and also are aware that the Nationals, with the best offense in the National League, have that dominant pitching.
The night before it was Gio Gonzalez and his curveball that had the Mets shut down for 7.0 innings. Saturday afternoon, righthander Stephen Strasburg will attempt to continue that dominance against the Mets and widen the lead.
And that major distinction is pitching, and a part of the game that wins ballgames. The Mets were believed to have the top staff in the National League and were ahead of the Nationals in that area, but we all know how the injury bug has provided one or more setbacks in their quest to overtake the defending divisional champions.
Scherzer got the early run support. Back-to-back home runs from Matt Wieters and Michael A. Taylor in the third inning, and that was more than enough. Because Scherzer is that dominant pitcher, and it is difficult to come from behind when that slider and fastball are effective, an early deficit is harder to overcome.
He was asked about that double digit lead that is comfortable, 10.0 games ahead in mid June, and realizing there is plenty of baseball left to play. Scherzer would not say this race is over but every dominant start by Scherzer or the Nationals staff, fifth in ERA, well that speaks volumes as to where this divisional lead is going.
But Scherzer gave credit where it is due, and yes his team is 5-0 against the Mets at Citi Field this season that includes taking the first two of this four-game series.
They’re too good a team,” he said. “If we don’t take care of business it’s all on us. We have to go out there and continue playing good baseball. Forget the standings.”
But the standings may mean something after Saturday if the Mets can’t beat Strasburg. And because the Nationals have that type of pitching it could soon mean that this divisional race is over.