By Jenifer Langosch and Alaina Getzenberg
ST. LOUIS -- With as many home runs as the Cardinals had hits off Max Scherzer, Bryce Harper foiled any chance at a Cardinals sweep and helped the Nationals salvage a win during their three-game stop at Busch Stadium. Their 7-2 victory over the Cardinals capped a Sunday when Washington had five players named to the National League All-Star team.
One of those was Scherzer, who opened the evening by striking out seven his first time through the Cardinals' order. He finished the night with 12, marking the 10th time this season -- and 59th of his career -- that Scherzer reached the double-digit strikeout mark in a game.
"From the beginning. When he comes out throwing strikes and has everything working," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said of knowing when Scherzer was on. "They were in trouble, unless somebody popped one with a walk, or something like that. Max was really sharp early. He was so-so in the middle. But he battled through it, and he gave us what he had today."
The Cardinals mustered a pair of singles and two walks, but nothing else against Scherzer, who pushed his NL-best ERA to 1.94 with seven shutout innings.
Scherzer was supported early by Harper, who spoiled the night of Cardinals All-Star starter Carlos Martinez. Harper crushed a slider over the right-field wall to give the Nationals a two-run lead in the first before golfing a third-inning pitch for another two-run homer to punctuate a three-run third. Martinez allowed as many runs on Sunday (five) as he had in his previous five starts combined.
"We didn't see anything out of the ordinary, even though it was a lot of hype about this matchup, even though he could have gone out there out of frustration and just let the ball fly," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of Martinez. "And he didn't do that. He kept making pitches. I thought he did a nice job of keeping us there. Five runs is a lot to overcome when their guy is obviously locked in right from pitch one. [Scherzer] had his good stuff right out of the gate."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Double dipping: Though Martinez buried the 0-2 changeup where he wanted, inches below the strike zone, Harper found a way to turn the third-inning pitch into his second home run of the night. The exit velocity (92.7 mph) and launch angle (30 degrees) of Harper's hit offered a hit probability of only 16 percent. But Harper hit it 392 feet to the right part of the park to seal his 13th career multi-homer game and put the Nationals ahead by four.
"I give credit to him because he didn't really make a lot of effort to make it be a home run, but he made good contact," Martinez said, speaking through a translator. "And I feel like in a different occasion, maybe against a different opponent, that would have been an OK pitch."
Rally squashed: Scherzer's outing was mostly stress-free, though the Cardinals did briefly threaten in the fourth. Without a hit, they pushed two runners into scoring position with two outs for Randal Grichuk, who had homered three times since being recalled a week ago. This time, he didn't make contact. Scherzer got Grichuk to swing through a high fastball in the final at-bat the Cardinals would take with a runner in scoring position against Scherzer. Grichuk fell to 0-for-9 with five strikeouts against Scherzer.
"That's why he's an All-Star. That's why he's Max Scherzer. He's one of the best in the league, if not the best. If there's a guy I want on the mound every fifth day, it's him. He's got his plan, he's got his mentality and he does things for this club, this organization that he needs to do to bring us up to the next level. That's why he is who he is and it's fun to watch. -- Harper on Scherzer
"He has all my respect. I think he's an excellent pitcher, one of the best in the league. These last couple of years, I really can't think of anybody that compares. I look up to him as an example." -- Martinez on Scherzer
WHAT'S NEXT Nationals:Stephen Strasburg (9-2, 3.51 ERA), named to the NL All-Star team, will take the mound on Monday against the Mets to open a week-long homestand. His 87 career innings of work against the Mets are the fewest innings he has pitched against any divisional opponent. First pitch is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. ET.
Cardinals:Adam Wainwright will look to sustain his recent positive momentum when he starts for the Cardinals in Monday's series opener against Miami. First pitch is scheduled for 6:15 p.m. CT. Wainwright is 5-1 with a 2.64 ERA in eight home starts this season.