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Orioles-Nationals Preview

Sep 23, 2015 - 4:15 AM There's been a too-little, too-late feel to the Washington Nationals' recent wins, and the same can be applied to their ace's latest work.

Max Scherzer can pitch the Nationals to an eighth win in 10 games Wednesday night against the visiting Baltimore Orioles, and in doing so he can further distance himself from a month of personal struggles.

Washington's three-game winning streak came to an end in Tuesday's 4-1 loss to open the three-game series, and with the New York Mets' loss, it missed out on a chance to get within 5 1/2 games of the NL East leaders.

Even so, a five-game losing streak preceding the recent success was likely the end of the Nationals' postseason hopes.

The Orioles (74-76) have won three straight in Washington and seven of nine in the interleague rivalry.

Baltimore is 9-4 since falling a season-worst seven games under .500 on Sept. 7 and finds itself five games out of the second wild card with four teams to pass after Houston lost.

Scherzer (12-11, 2.90 ERA), like Washington (78-72), has gotten it together recently, going 1-0 with a 1.20 ERA and .196 opponent batting average in his last two starts after going 0-3 with 6.35 and .324 marks in his previous six. The right-hander allowed two runs and five hits in seven innings of Friday's 5-4 home win over Miami in 10 innings.

He clearly hasn't given up on the season, as was evident as he raised his voice to manager Matt Williams to remain in the game for the final out of the seventh.

"You have to have the belief in yourself when those situations arise," Scherzer told MLB's official website. "I know I still have my best bolt left. I'm good to go. I'm ready to face anybody in the league in that situation. I'm not going to get everybody out. I have the attitude I can succeed in those situations."

Williams didn't allow his ace to get the final out in a 3-2 win in Baltimore on July 12 as Scherzer yielded two runs and four hits in 8 2-3 innings to improve to 4-1 with a 3.59 ERA in seven starts against the Orioles.

He's dominated Manny Machado (0 for 11 with five strikeouts) and J.J. Hardy (4 for 26), but Adam Jones is 11 for 22 with three home runs.

Jones has been out of the lineup the last two days with back spasms, and manager Buck Showalter wasn't sure if he'd return Wednesday.

"He's better. That's encouraging," Showalter said. "Hopefully he'll continue down that path. He can do some things that he couldn't do yesterday."

Scherzer is up against Chris Tillman (9-11, 5.19), who's been awful since early August.

Tillman's second half got off to a glowing start with a run allowed over 23 2-3 innings of his final three starts of July. He missed a turn in the rotation because of an ankle injury and has never been the same, going 1-4 with a 7.52 ERA in eight starts.

The right-hander at least kept the Orioles in Thursday's 4-3 win in Tampa Bay, surrendering three runs and five hits in 5 2-3 innings before the lineup saved him with a four-run eighth, but it was also his sixth straight start allowing at least three runs.

He faced Washington for the fourth time on July 10, giving up two runs in six innings, and remains without a decision while sporting a 4.37 ERA.

Ryan Zimmerman has done the most damage with three home runs in six at-bats, but the first baseman hasn't played since Sept. 7 due to an oblique injury and is considered day to day.