WASHINGTON (AP) — A day after the Nationals locked up home field advantage in the NL Division Series, they shared in Max Scherzer’s latest individual accomplishment.
The ace earned his 20th victory of the season and drove in a career-high four runs to help Washington beat the Miami Marlins 10-7 on Sunday.
“Everybody had their fingerprints all over the game,” said Scherzer, who last year threw two no-hitters and earlier this season tied a record with a 20-strikeout outing. “It’s just an absolute team win from everybody, from what they were able to do. It’s really special.”
Scherzer (20-7) allowed five runs in five innings while striking out seven. It was his second career 20-win season, and he became the second pitcher to win 20 games for the Nationals since they moved to Washington. Gio Gonzalez won 21 games in 2012.
Mark Melancon pitched the ninth to earn his 47th save in 51 chances.
The NL East champion Nationals, who will face Los Angeles in the division series, finished the regular season 95-67, a 12-game improvement in manager Dusty Baker’s first season.
Austin Brice (0-1) gave up three runs in an inning for Miami (79-82), which recorded its best record since going 80-82 in 2010.
Third baseman Martin Prado served as the Marlins’ manager, continuing a tradition actual manager Don Mattingly was a part of while working under Joe Torre in New York and Los Angeles and later when he managed the Dodgers. Prado went 1-for-2 with a caught stealing before removing himself from the game in the middle of the third inning.
“Sometimes you question managers making decisions,” Prado said. “Now that I was in that spot for only one game, I don’t know if I can do it. There’s so much stuff. The games speed up and there’s so many things you have to be aware of. I won’t ever say anything bad about any manager.”
Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy, who had missed the previous 10 games with an injured glute muscle, pinch hit in the fifth. He had a chance to overtake Colorado second baseman DJ LeMahieu for the National League batting title, but flied to right.
“We accomplished one of our goals, I’d say two of our goals actually,” Murphy said. “We won the NL East and we’re hosting a division series as well. So no, the batting title is not something I gave a lot of thought to.”
Washington broke a 5-5 tie in the fifth on Wilmer Difo’s RBI fielder’s choice. Shortstop Danny Espinosa drilled the next pitch to right for his 24th home run to put the Nationals up 8-5.
Marlins starter Tom Koehler walked the bases loaded to open the second inning before catcher Jose Lobaton hit a sacrifice fly. Against a drawn-in infield, Scherzer hit one up the middle to score two more runs.
A similar scenario unfolded in the fourth, when the first two men reached base and Lobaton sacrificed. Again, the Marlins brought the infield in. Again, Scherzer poked one up the middle to drive in two. The four RBIs are the most for a Nationals pitcher since the franchise moved from Montreal in 2005.
“He was so determined,” Baker said. “What did he drive in, four runs? That’s what we’ll never hear the end of.”
Outfielder Destin Hood and catch Tomas Telis both hit two-run shots off Scherzer for their first career home runs.
ICHIRO AT 3,030
Marlins OF Ichiro Suzuki, who earlier in the season collected his 3,000th hit, poked a pinch-single to right to lead off the fifth. He finished the year with 3,030 hits, 25th on the all-time list. The 42-year-old hit .291 in 327 at-bats.
C Spencer Kieboom made his major-league debut for the Nationals. He walked and scored as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning. Kieboom was recalled Tuesday after Wilson Ramos suffered a season-ending knee injury.
Marlins: Catcher J.T. Realmuto was out of the lineup on back-to-back days for the first time all season. He hit .303 with 11 homers and 48 RBIs, and his .301 average as a catcher set a club record previously held by Ivan Rodriguez (.300 in 2003).
Nationals: LF Jayson Werth (back tightness) sat out the second day in a row.
Marlins: After improving from 71 victories last year to 79 in manager Don Mattingly’s first season, Miami will try to record its first winning record since 2009 next year.
Nationals: Scherzer is expected to meet Clayton Kershaw (12-4, 1.69) when the Dodgers visit Nationals Park for Game 1 of the NLDS on Friday.
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