Chris Johnson powers Astros with two homers, six RBI

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Chris Johnson entered Wednesday without a homer in 86 at-bats, but he took Chris Schwinden deep in each of his first two plate appearances today to lead the Astros to an 8-1 win over the Mets.

Johnson drove in five runs with the two homers and later added a sixth RBI on a single on his way to a 4-for-4 day. He joined Ryan Braun in becoming the second player this season to collect at least four hits, two homers and six RBI in a game. No Astro had pulled off that feat since Lance Berkman on June 14, 2001.

Johnson appeared to be fading from Houston’s plans as last year went along, but he managed to  overtake Jimmy Paredes on the depth chart and regain his starting job at third base this spring.  At 27, this could well be his last chance to make it. Johnson is a below average defender at third base, and while he’s a career .277 hitter, that comes with a putrid 218/35 K/BB ratio in 831 career at-bats. Since he’ll likely always sport subpar OBPs, it’s a must that he starts hitting for more power, like he did today.

Max Scherzer, with broken nose, strikes out 10 Phillies over seven shutout innings

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Nationals starter Max Scherzer bunted a ball into his face during batting practice on Tuesday, breaking his nose in the process. He ended up with a gnarly looking shiner around his right eye, making him appear a bit like Terminator. Scherzer still took the ball to start the second game of Wednesday night’s doubleheader against the Phillies.

Despite the injury, Scherzer was incredibly effective, limiting the Phillies to four hits and two walks across seven shutout innings, striking out 10 batters in the process. He might even have had some extra adrenaline going, as he averaged 96.2 MPH on his fastball, his highest average fastball velocity in a game since September 2012, per MLB.com’s Jamal Collier. The Nationals provided Scherzer with just one run of support, coming on a Brian Dozier solo home run off of Jake Arrieta in the second inning, but it was enough.

Wander Suero worked a scoreless top of the eighth with a pair of strikeouts. Victor Robles added a solo homer off of Pat Neshek in the bottom half. Closer Sean Doolittle took over in the ninth, working a 1-2-3 frame to give the Nats their 2-0 victory.

Over his last six starts, Scherzer now has a 0.88 ERA with a 59/8 K/BB ratio across 41 innings. He has gone six innings, struck out at least nine batters, and held the opposition to two or fewer runs in each of those six starts.