Scherzer flirts with perfection in taming Cubs

Scherzer flirts with perfection in taming Cubs

WASHINGTON -- Max Scherzer struck out 11 over seven dominant innings to lead the Nationals to a 4-1 win over the Cubs in Monday night's series opener at Nationals Park.

On May 6, Scherzer was hit hard in a loss to the Cubs at Wrigley Field. In that game, Scherzer allowed seven runs in five innings, while the Cubs hit four home runs. But it was a different story this time around, as Scherzer was overpowering to start the game. He was perfect for 5 1/3 innings until Cubs shortstop Addison Russell homered into the left-field seats.

Cast your Esurance All-Star ballot for Ramos, Russell and other #ASGWorthy players

"The Cubs have a great team over there," Scherzer said. "They beat my brains in last time and I wanted to go out there and take my shot at them."

Said Cubs catcher Miguel Montero: "I think he wanted a little payback."

Russell breaks up perfect game

Scherzer, who allowed one run on two hits, struck out nine of the first 10 he faced, and then he let his teammates behind him do the rest of the work.

"Tonight, I felt some good stuff with the fastball and all the offspeed pitches were working the way they needed to," Scherzer said. "I wasn't as quite as efficient as I wanted to [be]. I wasn't able to throw in the early curveballs the way I usually like to. Even when I was behind, I found a way to make pitches to keep them off balance still let the fastball work."

Scherzer's 11 K's in 11 seconds

What was Cubs manager Joe Maddon thinking when he saw Scherzer strike out nine of the first 10 batters?

"That he may strike out 20," Maddon said.

Zimmerman's amazing stop

Kyle Hendricks allowed four runs (three earned) over 5 1/3 innings for the Cubs. The Nationals took a 1-0 lead in the third after Bryce Harper singled and Cubs center fielder Dexter Fowler tried to throw Jayson Werth out at third base, but the ball went by third baseman Kris Bryant and Werth scored on the play.

The Nationals then scored three runs in the sixth, highlighted by Wilson Ramos' solo homer. Ben Revere and Danny Espinosa both had RBI singles in the sixth for the Nats.

Revere's RBI single in the 6th

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
In the record books: Scherzer became the 26th pitcher in Major League history to strike out 10-plus batters 40 or more times in his career. More >

Miscues: The Cubs had made seven errors during a 16-game stretch from May 24 to June 10, and were charged with seven combined in the last two games in Atlanta. The problems continued Monday as Fowler committed a throwing error that led to Werth scoring in the third and Russell dropped Revere's popup in the fifth. Jason Heyward nearly robbed Ramos of a home run with a leaping attempt at the wall in the sixth, but the ball ended up in the Nationals' bullpen. Heyward threw his glove in disgust.

Heyward said the ball hit his glove.

"If I could've brought it back, we might still be playing," Heyward said.

Ramos' solo shot in the 6th

As for Russell's play, Maddon said the shortstop "will catch it 101 out of 100 times."

Bullpen matters: In the final two innings, manager Dusty Baker used two relievers -- Oliver Perez and Shawn Kelley -- and they ended up striking out a combined five batters to shut down the Cubs.

"With a three-run lead, I wanted to get ahead. I didn't want to do them any favors or fall behind or try to get this lineup out with hitter's counts. I try to throw strike one and go from there," Kelley said.

It was a save situation for closer Jonathan Papelbon, but Baker said his closer was sore. Baker did not reveal the kind of soreness Papelbon had, but that the team would re-evaluate him on Tuesday. More >

Kelley slams the door

Start me up: Hendricks was outdueled by Scherzer, but continued the Cubs' good stretch of starting pitching. Three of the four runs off Hendricks were earned, and Cubs starting pitchers have given up three or fewer earned runs in 17 straight games. Hendricks said his pitches got up a little bit in the sixth, when he ran into some trouble.

"This week, I have to zone back in a little bit and get my fastball command better," Hendricks said. "I was missing with pitches that I don't usually miss with."

Hendricks fans Zimmerman

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
It was the seventh time Scherzer has carried a no-hitter through five innings as a member of the Nationals.

The Cubs struck out a season-high 16 times. On May 19, the Cubs struck out 15 times against the Brewers. More >

WHAT'S NEXT
Cubs: John Lackey will start the second game of this three-game set, making his 400th career start. The right-hander is coming off a win over the Phillies in which he threw seven scoreless innings. He's 2-0 with a 3.58 ERA in five career starts vs. the Nationals. First pitch will be 6:05 p.m. CT in the MLB Plus Showcase game.

Nationals: Left-hander Gio Gonzalez hopes to snap a personal four-game losing streak. During that stretch, he has allowed 21 runs in 22 2/3 innings with 31 strikeouts. First pitch will be at 7:05 p.m. ET at Nationals Park.

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Bill Ladson has covered the Nationals/Expos for MLB.com since 2002 and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.