Nationals’ Max Scherzer struggles in relief

After Gio Gonzalez exited Thursday night’s Game 5 of the National League Division Series presented by T-Mobile after three innings, and Matt Albers kept the Cubs scoreless in the fourth, an energized Scherzer entered to begin the fifth and protect a one-run lead at Nationals Park.

By the time Scherzer recorded his third out of what proved to be a one-inning appearance, the Cubs had gained a 7-4 lead.

Pitching with the two days of rest he’d gained since being nearly flawless into the seventh inning of Monday’s Game 3, Scherzer retired the first two batters he faced — Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo — and popped the radar gun with a fastball that registered a season-high 98.6 mph.

But just when it looked like Scherzer might deliver a perfect inning, he experienced what could be described as a ridiculously imperfect one. Willson Contreras reached on a two-out infield single, pinch-hitter Ben Zobrist followed with a bloop single and Addison Russell sent a go-ahead double past the third-base bag.

After Jason Heyward was intentionally walked, Javier Baez reached on a strikeout and wild pitch that eluded catcher Matt Wieters, who added to the follies when his throw to first base got past Ryan Zimmerman and Daniel Murphy before reaching right field and allowing Russell to score. Pinch-hitter Tommy La Stella then reached on catcher’s interference to load the bases before Jon Jay appeared to lean into a pitch, which resulted in the last of the four runs tallied by the Cubs during the inning.

Scherzer allowed as many as four runs in just two starts this season — the Braves tagged him for five runs in the seventh inning on Sept. 13, and the D-backs got him for four on July 21.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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