The game-time temperature was 80 degrees without a hint of the summer-like humidity that is bound to plague the nation’s capital.
“Perfect pitching conditions,” Washington Nationals right-hander Max Scherzer said.
On the mound, Scherzer was not quite perfect, but he was good enough, pitching the Nationals to a 4-1 win over the Chicago Cubs on Monday. Scherzer took a perfect game into the sixth inning after he gave up four homers to the Cubs in a May 6 game at Wrigley Field.
“They have a great team over there. They beat my brains in last time,” said Scherzer, who struck out 11 and allowed one run in seven innings Monday. “I wanted to come out there and take my shot at them. Tonight, I felt like I had some good stuff. I was able to locate on both sides of the plate.”
Jonathan Papelbon, the Nationals’ regular closer, was sore and unavailable, according to manager Dusty Baker, who do not elaborate much more. Papelbon, who was in the dugout in the ninth inning, blew a save chance Sunday against thePhiladelphia Phillies but got the win when the Nationals scored two in the ninth.
Washington reliever Shawn Kelley got the last five outs Monday for his first save of the year and fifth of his career in 316 big league appearances.
Scherzer, who threw two no-hitters last year, gave up two hits and no walks. He fanned nine of the first 10 batters he faced. It was the 40th time in Scherzer’s career he fanned at least 10 batters in a game.
“He had really good everything,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “He’s just good. He’s capable of that kind of game at any time.”
Scherzer (8-4) was lifted for pinch hitter Chris Heisey, who fanned with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh.
“He was working very fast. He was awesome to start the game,” Baker said of Scherzer. “We made some very good defensive plays. It was a very good game, a good game to watch, a good game to manage.”
Nationals lefty Oliver Perez retired the only batter he faced in the eighth, and then Kelley came on to get the last two outs of the frame. Kelley pitched a perfect ninth to seal the victory, and he finished with four strikeouts during his five-batter stint.
The Nationals (40-24) won their fourth in a row and beat the Cubs (43-19) for the first time in five tries in 2016. Chicago is 21-11 on the road and 12-4 against the National League East.
The Nationals took a 1-0 lead in the second. Jayson Werth drew a one-out walk, went to third on a single to center by Bryce Harper and then scored as the throw by center fielder Dexter Fowler got past third baseman Kris Bryant for an error.
Harper walked 13 times (four intentional) in the four-game series at Chicago in May.
Scherzer entered the game having allowed 16 homers this season, although he threw seven scoreless innings in his last start, Wednesday in Chicago against the White Sox.
He struck out 20 batters at home May 11 against the Detroit Tigers in a season-high 119 pitches, and he threw a no-hitter at Nationals Park against Pittsburgh on June 20, 2015. His other no-hitter came at New York against the Mets last October.
Hendricks gave an intentional walk to Daniel Murphy with runners on first and second to load the bases in the fifth. That brought up Ryan Zimmerman, who struck out to end the inning.