Scherzer rounding into midseason form

Scherzer rounding into midseason form

MIAMI -- After another dominant outing to lead the Nationals to an 8-2 victory Sunday afternoon over the Marlins at Marlins Park, Max Scherzer appears to be settling into a groove. He struck out eight in eight innings and made one mistake, which Justin Bour smashed for a two-run homer.

In his last three starts, Scherzer has allowed six runs in 23 1/3 innings, with 38 strikeouts and three walks.

"I'm just kind of getting in midseason form," Scherzer said. "That's what you're always striving for. You'd love to have it when you get out of spring, but sometimes it takes a few starts. I've made some mistakes over the course of this year so far, but every start I just keep getting a little bit sharper."

On Sunday, he featured command of all of his offspeed pitches, which gives him a plethora of weapons to use with his fastball. It's a welcome sight that finally saw Scherzer's ERA dip under 4.00 after it ballooned to 4.60 after he allowed seven runs on May 6 in Chicago.

The Nationals began the day second in the Majors in starters' ERA at 2.93, trailing only the Cubs' 2.52 mark. Their starting staff has been strong even with Scherzer just starting to find his groove.

"His location has settled in, that's the whole thing that was hurting him before," said manager Dusty Baker. "Or he was having high pitch-count innings the first couple innings and I'd have to go get him in the sixth. Whenever he can get into the middle part of the ballgame, that's when he's especially tough. It's much needed on our part."

The only way Scherzer has allowed runs lately has been via the homer. Each of the six runs he's surrendered during his past three starts have come on home runs -- including 21 of the 28 runs he has allowed this season.

The Nationals have attributed those home runs to missed location. For a pitcher like Scherzer, who throws a steady dose of fastballs, those mistakes often get hit hard. But they remain unconcerned about those numbers, especially with the way Scherzer is pitching lately.

"He challenges hitters, he comes at you," pitching coach Mike Maddux said. "Everybody knows that. He prides himself on pounding the strike zone, and the byproduct is if big strong guys barrel one up, they can get it. He doesn't back down from it."

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.