The Nationals are under .500 for the first time since 2011

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The Cardinals completed a three-game sweep in D.C. by winning 4-2 on Wednesday, dropping the Nationals to 10-11 on the young season.

It’s the first time the popular NL pennant pick has been below .500 since finishing the 2011 season with an 80-81 record. Last year, the Nats were over .500 after every game but one (they started the season 2-2).

Minus Ryan Zimmerman, the Nationals scored just four runs in the three games against the Cardinals. One of those runs was scored by Stephen Strasburg today after his sixth-inning single, but that was the only run the Nationals amassed while he was in the contest. Strasburg dropped to 1-4 due to the lack of help.

It was the 10th time in their 21 games that the Nationals have scored two runs or fewer. Only the Marlins, with 13, have more such games. The Mariners, Padres and Phillies also have 10 apiece.

In comparison, the Yankees and Mets have just three such games.

Especially since the pitching staff is still healthy, it’s far too early for Nationals fans to panic. Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez haven’t been as dominant as hoped, but there aren’t any big warning signs there and both Jordan Zimmermann and Ross Detwiler have looked very good. Even if Dan Haren proves to be a lost cause, that’s something they can overcome once the offense gets going. And the offense is too good not to get going before much longer.

Battle of the Aces: Max Scherzer takes on Clayton Kershaw tonight

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I hope you don’t have any plans tonight at around 10PM Eastern time, because that’s when we get a pitching matchup for the ages as Max Scherzer will take on Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. When they meet tonight it will be the first time two pitchers with three or more Cy Young Awards have matched up since 2006. That year, and in 2005 and 2000, Roger Clemens faced Greg Maddux. In 2001 Clemens faced Pedro Martinez.

Kershaw won his hardware in 2011, 2013 and 2014, with an MVP award in 2014 to boot. Scherzer collected trophies in 2013, 2016 and 2017. Each has started the 2018 season in Cy Young form. Kershaw is 1-2, but that record is due to poor run support. He has a 1.73 ERA and has struck out 31 batters and has walked only three in 26 innings. Scherzer is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a whopping 38 strikeouts to only 4 walks in 27 innings.

This will be the third time that Kershaw and Scherzer faced each other if you include the playoffs. The first meeting was a decade ago when both were rookies. They most recently faced off in Game 1 of the 2016 NLDS, way back when Scherzer only had one Cy Young Award to his credit. Kershaw beat Scherzer in that playoff game and the Dodgers beat Scherzer’s teams in the two regular season matchups, with neither guy setting the world on fire. As so often happens in baseball, the hype hasn’t been matched by reality.

Still, there’s always a chance it will. And even if, in the end, this turns into a slugfest, the first couple of innings should at least give us some hope of something good. I’ll be watching.