WASHINGTON -- In one of his most perplexing starts this season, Max Scherzer issued four walks, one with the bases loaded, and allowed a grand slam by the third inning of Friday's 6-2 loss to the Cardinals. Then he proceeded to settle down and retire 14 consecutive batters to complete seven innings.
His final line was an odd one -- he allowed five runs on three hits and six strikeouts but matched a season high with four walks in seven innings.
"As much as I hate taking a punch to the face, giving up five runs, the only solace that can come out of this is that I did go seven," Scherzer said. "You save some innings on the bullpen, you save the wear and tear, and that can help those guys tomorrow, and the next day. So as frustrating as it is for me to go out there and give up a crooked number like that, the fact that I can save the bullpen at least saves something for us."
Scherzer said he did not have command of his changeup through the first few innings of the game or any feel for his strikeout pitches. He walked the leadoff batter to begin the first and second innings, which he called the most frustrating, although he escaped those innings unscathed.
Scherzer was also the victim of a few late timeout calls granted to Cardinals hitters. Scherzer took no issue with St. Louis batters calling time -- he often holds the ball on the mound to disrupt the timing of would-be baserunners -- but he thought home-plate umpire Alan Porter granted them too late into Scherzer's motion.
"I just don't want to get hurt," Scherzer said. "You can get hurt doing that. ... I understand the hitters [are] going to call time, and I'm not upset one bit about them calling time. I just don't want to get hurt."
The damage came during a five-run third inning, when Scherzer issued a bases-loaded walk to Matt Holliday before allowing a grand slam to Stephen Piscotty. It was the second grand slam Scherzer has allowed in his career and the 15th home run he has surrendered this season, the most in the Majors.
"It was a dumb pitch." Scherzer said. "I hadn't shown my fastball yet and I threw another slider and I hung it. He put a good swing on it, ended in a blast. I know I've been giving up a ton of home runs ... but that one that's just an execution thing. That's just me not throwing the right pitch at the right time with poor execution.
"So that's one where you don't beat yourself up over it because you didn't think right. It's more you executed the wrong pitch."
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.