Orioles, Grant Balfour going back and forth on potential contract

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Jen Royle of the Boston Herald is reporting that the Orioles and free agent reliever Grant Balfour are still hammering out their differences on a potential contract. The Orioles preferred a two-year deal at $6 million per year; Balfour wanted a three-year deal at $8 million per year with a vesting option. Royle’s source says there won’t be a vesting option. Royle also adds that Balfour has been offered a “sweet” deal from an unnamed team but the right-hander would prefer to work things out with the O’s.

Balfour, who turns 36 years old, is one of the few high-quality relievers still available in free agency. Joaquin Benoit remains available, and following him, Fernando Rodney would move up in the free agency rankings. Every other reliever has some inherent risk due to some combination of age, injury history, and/or inconsistency.

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.