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What’s on Tap: Previewing Wednesday’s action

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Jameson Taillon, your city needs you. The 67-69 Pirates have lost eight games in a row, falling an insurmountable 21 games out of first place in the NL Central. They’re also now 5.5 games out of the second NL Wild Card slot and even the injury-plagued Mets are closer to that than the Pirates are.

The Pirates, simply, haven’t been hitting. While they scored seven runs in Tuesday’s loss and six runs in Monday’s loss, the club has been shut out three times during their current eight-game skid, including twice by the lowly Brewers. The pitching has been abysmal, yielding an aggregate 38 runs over their last four games.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the team’s failure, however, may be closer Tony Watson. The Pirates traded soon-to-be free agent Mark Melancon to the Nationals on July 30, opening up the door for Watson to take over as the closer. To that point, Watson had a 2.64 ERA and a 39/15 K/BB ratio in 44 1/3 innings, mostly serving as the set-up man for Melancon. Since taking over as the closer, Watson has a 5.02 ERA and a 10/5 K/BB ratio in 14 1/3 innings. He’s given up five home runs, including three in the ninth inning on Tuesday night to the Cardinals in a devastating 9-7 loss.

There are 26 games left in the regular season for the Pirates. Let’s hypothetically and very generously say they go 16-10 (.615), putting them at 83-79. They would need the Giants to go 8-16 (.333) or worse or the Cardinals to go 9-16 (.360) or worse, and the Mets to go 9-14 (.391) or worse. Furthermore, the Marlins (six games out) could win no more than 14 of their remaining 23 games (.607). Similarly, the Rockies (7.5 games out) could win no more than 16 of their remaining 24 (.667). In other words, in order for the Pirates to sneak into the postseason, they need four out of five teams in the NL Wild Card race to hit the skids starting now.

Note: Records used are prior to Wednesday afternoon’s games.

The odds are against them, but stranger things have happened in September. Ask the 2007 Mets. Taillon starts for the Buccos tonight at home against the Cardinals’ Mike Leake in a 7:05 PM EDT start.

The rest of Wednesday’s action…

Atlanta Braves (Mike Foltynewicz) @ Washington Nationals (Stephen Strasburg), 7:05 PM EDT

Toronto Blue Jays (Marcus Stroman) @ New York Yankees (Bryan Mitchell), 7:05 PM EDT

Houston Astros (Doug Fister) @ Cleveland Indians (Carlos Carrasco), 7:10 PM EDT

Philadelphia Phillies (Jeremy Hellickson) @ Miami Marlins (Andrew Cashner), 7:10 PM EDT

Chicago Cubs (Mike Montgomery) @ Milwaukee Brewers (Matt Garza), 8:10 PM EDT

Kansas City Royals (Danny Duffy) @ Minnesota Twins (Kyle Gibson), 8:10 PM EDT

San Francisco Giants (Albert Suarez) @ Colorado Rockies (Jorge De La Rosa), 8:40 PM EDT

Boston Red Sox (David Price) @ San Diego Padres (Jarred Cosart), 9:10 PM EDT

Arizona Diamondbacks (Robbie Ray) @ Los Angeles Dodgers (Brock Stewart), 10:10 PM EDT

Texas Rangers (A.J. Griffin) @ Seattle Mariners (Ariel Miranda), 10:10 PM EDT

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.