Max Scherzer allowed one hit over seven shutout innings as the visiting Washington Nationals beat the St. Louis Cardinals 3-1 on Saturday to gain a 2-0 advantage in the National League Championship Series.
The best-of-seven series shifts to Washington for Games 3, 4 and 5 (if needed) Monday through Wednesday.
Scherzer picked up where Nationals starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez left off Friday. Sanchez held the Cardinals hitless for 7 2/3 innings in Game 1, then Scherzer carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning in Game 2.
“For me, I’m just in the moment,” the right-handed Scherzer said. “I’m not trying to do anything great.”
Scherzer (2-0 this postseason) didn’t allow a hit until Paul Goldschmidt singled to start the seventh. He issued two walks while striking out 11 batters before exiting.
“He was dynamite,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “His stuff was good. His changeup was really good today. He utilized it well. The fastball was good. He was locating his fastball early in the count. So he was good.”
Closer Daniel Hudson, just back on the team from paternity leave, got the final two outs to earn his third postseason save.
Cardinals manager Mike Shildt rolled with the same lineup that produced just one hit in Friday night’s 2-0 loss. And once again his hitters struggled, producing just five baserunners against Scherzer and relievers Sean Doolittle, Patrick Corbin and Hudson.
“We can’t ignore the fact we’ve been shut down pretty much for two games in a row,” Shildt said. “Don’t make excuses for it. There’s a lot of variables to it. The reality is we haven’t been able to get it done.”
The Cardinals wasted a solid start by veteran Adam Wainwright (0-1 in the postseason), who worked into the eighth inning. He struck out 11 batters and allowed three runs on seven hits in 7 1/3 innings.
Michael A. Taylor launched a leadoff homer in the third inning to give the Nationals a 1-0 lead.
They increased their advantage to 3-0 in the eighth inning. With one out, Matt Adams and Trea Turner reached on singles and Adam Eaton drove both home with a double down the first-base line.
Andrew Miller relieved Wainwright and prevented further damage.
The Cardinals finally scored in the eighth inning off Doolittle. Paul DeJong hit a two-out single and scored when Taylor misjudged Jose Martinez’s line drive into a RBI double.
Taylor came in on the ball, then failed to make a leaping catch as it soared over him.
St. Louis has just four hits in the series.
“We have guys getting some pitches to hit, not a lot of them. Not a lot of pitches to feast on,” Shildt said. “I feel like the competition is there, the approach is there. When guys are pitching at that level … we have to figure out a way to be that much better. It’s a challenge right now for us.”