MLB

Nationals-Marlins Preview

Though Max Scherzer continues to pile up the strikeouts, the long ball still remains a problem for the Washington Nationals right-hander.

After a pair of homers doomed him in his last start, Scherzer hopes to keep the ball in the park Sunday when he tries to avoid a second loss in a month to the host Miami Marlins.

Scherzer (4-3, 4.01 ERA) is second in the majors with 76 strikeouts, but tied for the lead with 13 home runs allowed.

"The home runs have been his nemesis all year," Nationals manager Dusty Baker told MLB's official website.

Following his historic 20-strikeout game May 11 against Detroit, Scherzer fanned 10 over 6 1/3 innings Tuesday against the New York Mets. However, two of the three hits he gave up left the park in the 2-0 loss.

''It's just one of those outings where, when you lose, it's always frustrating, because you go back and think how you can pitch better,'' said Scherzer, who has allowed eight home runs in three games. ''At the end of the day, I did pitch well, just not well enough.''

Scherzer did not pitch that well April 21, when he yielded a three-run first-inning homer to Marcell Ozuna and two other runs while striking out a season-low three over five innings of a 5-1 loss at Miami (22-20).

Martin Prado had two hits off Scherzer, and is 11 for 22 against him all-time.

Two of the three homers Adam Conley (3-2, 3.40) has allowed this season came from Jayson Werth and Wilson Ramos, plus two other runs in 6 2/3 innings of a 7-0 loss to the Nationals (26-17) on April 19.

The left-hander, however, has a 1.96 ERA while winning three of his last four starts. After yielding four runs in four innings to Milwaukee on May 10, Conley overcame eight hits to give up only a run over six of Monday's 5-3 victory at Philadelphia.

"Conley looked like he had more finish on his ball,'' manager Don Mattingly said. ''He was definitely sharper compared to the last game.''

Daniel Murphy is 3 for 4 with a double and a triple against Conley.

Batting a major league-leading .390, Murphy had two more hits Saturday. But the Nationals managed only one run with the bases loaded and nobody out in the ninth inning of a 3-2 defeat.

The result ended Washington's three-game winning streak and snapped a slide of the same duration for the Marlins.

''This team has a big heart, and I love the passion we play with," winning pitcher Jose Fernandez said. "We know what (Washington) can do. But we're not backing down.''

With three hits in that contest, Ozuna is batting .405 with six homers, 13 RBIs and 18 runs scored in his last 20 games.

It's uncertain if teammate Christian Yelich will be available after being scratched Saturday because of back spasms. He is 7 for 17 in the last four games.

Hitless in five straight contests, Miami's Giancarlo Stanton is 4 for 48 with 23 strikeouts in his last 14 games.

"This is obviously a little bit extended, but you don't run from your guys," Mattingly said. "He's going to come out of it.''

Stanton's only hit in four at-bats against Scherzer was a home run.

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