WASHINGTON — Max Scherzer’s outing went from perfect to almost perfect to not perfect enough in a matter of minutes.
Scherzer lost his perfect game in the fifth, his no-hit bid in the seventh and then the game as the Washington Nationals fell to the Cleveland Indians 3-1 on Tuesday night. Scherzer again approached his third career no-hitter but got knocked around by the Indians at the wrong time.
“Once you make it through six, you’ve got a shot,” Scherzer said. “I threw the ball really well tonight. It’s the little things that beat me.”
The little things, in order, were a single by Francisco Lindor, a throwing error on a pickoff attempt at first that became a two-base error, an RBI double by Jose Ramirez and an RBI single by Lonnie Chisenhall. After retiring 19 of the first 20 batters, Scherzer (12-7) was down 2-0 and Washington was unable to mount a comeback against Trevor Bauer and the Cleveland bullpen.
“He knows how to close out those games,” manager Dusty Baker said of Scherzer. “Then it went from a no-hitter to a loss in a matter of time, and we couldn’t muster too much offense. We hit a couple balls hard, but they hit a couple balls hard also. It was a well-played and well-pitched game.”
Bauer (8-5) held the Nationals to four hits in 6 1/3 shutout innings, striking out four. The Nationals got their lone run in the form of Jayson Werth’s 14th home run of the season in the eighth off recently-acquired lefty reliever Andrew Miller.
Washington has scored three runs in three games.
Scherzer, who struck out 10, had the Indians down for a while, but Cleveland bench coach Brad Mills saw cracks.
“He hadn’t given up any hits, but at the same time the guys were putting some good at-bats together that kind of lengthened out his pitch count a little bit,” said Mills, who replaced Terry Francona when the manager fell ill before the game. “I think that when the guys started seeing more pitches, they started being a little bit more comfortable the next time around.”
Baker watched as Scherzer’s pitch count rose and as the right-hander walked Tyler Naquin in the fifth, but never worried about the situation.
“He didn’t run out of gas,” Baker said. “He had some pretty good hitters out there. Shoot, man, they hit some decent pitches.”
Nationals: OF Bryce Harper missed his second consecutive game with a stiff neck. Manager Dusty Baker had no timeframe on the reigning National League MVP’s return other than to say the club has considered shutting him down to avoid further risk. … C Wilson Ramos took a foul tip off his left foot in the eighth inning. He stayed in the game but was replaced by Pedro Severino at the start of the ninth. Baker said he wasn’t concerned.
Before Scherzer’s no-hit bid ended, center fielder Ben Revere made a highlight-reel jumping catch to rob Roberto Perez in the sixth. Revere leapt at the wall in left-center field to take extra bases away from Perez while Scherzer let out a scream.
“You play the best defense you can, any way you can help your team in any situation,” Revere said. “Of course Scherzer had the no-hitter going and everything. It’s just trying to get more motivated. That’s what I’m trying to do.”
The Indians have listed 25-year-old RHP Mike Clevinger (0-1, 6.97 ERA) as their starter for the Wednesday afternoon series finale. LHP Gio Gonzalez (7-9, 4-13) starts for the Nationals.
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