WASHINGTON -- Max Scherzer was determined to make some changes after his previous start, when he lasted just five innings and threw 106 pitches in a loss to the Atlanta Braves. He said he was "lost out there without fastball command."
In his next bullpen session, Scherzer made sure to exaggerate putting his arms up higher as he prepared to throw, and he took that lesson to the mound on Friday.
The 2016 Cy Young Award winner responded with a bounce-back performance, as he struck out a season-high 13 batters and allowed just three hits and two walks in 8 2/3 innings as the Washington Nationals defeated the San Diego Padres 5-1.
"I made an effort to get my hands up higher," Scherzer said. "That is when everything in my mechanics works and I am able to get into the zone; throw the fastball where I want it. You just get in rhythm with your catcher. You just keep pitching your game. That is what makes it fun when your offense goes out and scores a few runs."
The outing brought forth many testimonials.
"Today was about as good as I have ever seen him," said Andy Green, the San Diego manager.
"That is the kind of (Cy Young Award) stuff he had tonight," said Washington bench coach Chris Speier, who was filling in for absent manager Dusty Baker.
Said Washington shortstop Trea Turner: "He pitched lights out. He was awesome."
Reliever Koda Glover came on with two outs in the ninth after Scherzer hit Ryan Schimpf -- he had homered earlier -- to load the bases. Glover got his fourth save as pinch-hitter Hunter Renfroe struck out swinging.
Glover began to warm up as Scherzer ran into trouble in the ninth.
"You always have to be prepared in case," Glover said. "You have to go in aggressive. He's a great pitcher and he did a great job. Hats off to him. He's always prepared."
It was a hit-by-pitch with two outs in the ninth that cost Scherzer a perfect game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at home June 20, 2015. This time the hit-by-pitch cost him a shot at his seventh complete game of his career.
Speier noted Scherzer pitched a gem and the Nationals hit three homers: by Turner, Michael A. Taylor and Bryce Harper.
"I didn't do a darn thing the whole game," Speier joked.
Scherzer got a nice ovation when he came to bat with two outs and none on in the last of the eighth, and no one seemed to care when he struck out on three pitches.
Scherzer then fanned Wil Myers for the second out in the ninth with two runners on before Glover got the last out.
Turner hit a leadoff homer in the first and Harper crushed a two-run shot in the seventh off reliever Kirby Yates to give the Nationals a 5-1 lead.
The losing pitcher was San Diego starter Luis Perdomo (0-2), who gave up three runs and six hits (including two homers) with six strikeouts.
Matt Wieters was 2-for-4 for the Nationals, who lead the league in team batting average and runs.
San Diego tied the score with its own solo homer, as Schimpf lined a shot down the right field line off Scherzer to make it 1-1 in the fourth. It was the 12th homer for the San Diego third baseman, who entered the game with a .163 average and just nine singles.
Taylor, who has hit safely in 11 of the last 13 games, smashed a two-run homer to center to give the Nationals a 3-1 lead in the last of the fourth.
Scherzer fanned the side in the third inning on just 10 pitches.
"Something special may happen" when Scherzer pitches, Harper said.
That was the case again Friday night before an energized crowd of 28,606 fans, who began their holiday weekend in style.
"That is the Cy Young version," Green said of Scherzer. "That is an ace that carves though any lineup."
NOTES: The Nationals acquired OF Ryan Raburn, 36, for cash or a player to be named in a trade with the Chicago White Sox. He has big league experience and had been with Triple-A Charlotte. He will report to Triple-A Syracuse. ... Washington manager Dusty Baker missed the first of three weekend games in order to attend the high school graduation of his son, Darren, in California. Bench coach Chris Speier filled in for Baker. ... Washington RHP Stephen Strasburg (5-1, 3.28 ERA), a former San Diego State star, will face Padres LHP Clayton Richard (3-5, 4.31) on Saturday. ... The Nationals have not been involved in a shutout this year. Washington has held opponents to one run six times, including its last three wins.