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SAN DIEGO (AP) — With runners on the corners and one out in the seventh, with a shutout still on the line, Max Scherzer put an exclamation mark on his brilliant start.
Scherzer notched his 10th and 11th strikeouts to get out of the jam and the Washington Nationals went on to beat the San Diego Padres 4-1 Saturday night, their 14th victory in 18 games.
"I always believe your last 15 pitches dictate kind of how you feel about your start," Scherzer said. "Even though they were able to scratch a couple of hits, I was still able to pitch my best. I still had my best fastball, I still had my best stuff there even as I was approaching the end.
"At that point you just compete as hard as you can and give them everything you've got."
Scherzer (4-3) set a season-high in strikeouts and allowed only four hits and two walks.
The Padres were one out from being shut out for the second straight night and the fifth time in 12 games before Alexi Amarista hit an RBI single off Aaron Barrett. Drew Storen came on to strike out Derek Norris for his 11th save in 12 chances.
Wilson Ramos also had an RBI single in the three-run first to extend his career-best hitting streak to 18 games, the longest in the majors this year.
Scherzer has struck out at least 10 three times in four starts.
The Padres had runners reach third base three times and Scherzer stranded them each time, including getting out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth.
Scherzer retired the first 10 batters before walking Will Venable. Matt Kemp followed with a single — his first hit off the right-hander in 23 career at-bats — and Yangervis Solarte walked with two outs to load the bases. Scherzer then got Will Middlebrooks to pop up to second base.
Venable doubled with one out in the sixth and advanced on a wild pitch, but Scherzer retired Kemp and Justin Upton on fly balls. Solarte doubled off the base of the fence in right-center leading off the seventh and advanced on Alex Amarista's one-out single to left. Scherzer then struck out pinch-hitters Norris and Abraham Almonte.
"He's got the ability to dial it up when he needs to," manager Matt Williams said. "He pitches 91 to 94 and reaches back when he wants to and runs it in there. More of the same for Maxy. He was in control. He ran into a couple of tough spots but made pitches when he needed to."
The Nationals jumped on Andrew Cashner (1-7) in the first, ending his big league record of allowing two or fewer earned runs in 21 straight home games dating to June 11, 2013.
Ian Desmond doubled down the left field line with one out and came in on Yunel Escobar's single to right. Bryce Harper singled to right, Ryan Zimmerman brought in Escobar with a groundout and Ramos singled in Harper.
"I just made a bunch of mistakes in the first; a couple of balls through the hole" Cashner said. "I didn't execute in the first. I left a lot of fastballs up. I've got to be better. I wasn't very good tonight."
Said manager Bud Black: "Mentally, he's competing, but again, we didn't get any runs when he was in there. His day will come when he gets his wins. He's too good a pitcher for his record to be what it is right now."
The Nationals added an unearned run off Cashner to make it 4-0 in the fourth. Danny Espinosa drew a leadoff walk and ended up on third when Cashner fielded Scherzer's bunt and overthrew second for an error. Espinosa scored on Denard Span's sacrifice fly.
Cashner allowed four runs, three earned, on nine hits in six innings, struck out six and walked two.
The Padres have given Cashner just two runs of support in his last five starts.
Nationals: OF Jayson Werth sat out with a swollen left wrist. He was hit by a pitch in Friday night's victory.
Padres: OF Melvin Upton, on the disabled list with an injured left foot, will begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A El Paso on Monday.
Nationals: Stephen Strasburg (2-3, 4.73 ERA) , who grew up in the San Diego area and played for Tony Gwynn at San Diego State, will pitch against the Padres at Petco Park for the second time in his career. He beat his hometown Padres 6-2 on May 16, 2013.
Padres: RHP Ian Kennedy (2-2, 5.92) has won two of his last three starts.
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