Earlier this week Pirates manager Clint Hurdle talked about looking into the “mental component” of Pedro Alvarez’s throwing problems in an effort to get the third baseman back on track defensively. And now Alvarez is out of the lineup for a second straight day despite being healthy.
Josh Harrison is starting at third base and using the All-Star utility man there more often is the most obvious solution if Hurdle and the Pirates decide Alvarez isn’t fixable in the short term.
Not only has Alvarez committed an MLB-high 21 throwing errors among 23 total miscues, he’s hitting just .238 with a pedestrian .733 OPS and hasn’t homered since the All-Star break.
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.