PITTSBURGH — A starting pitcher needs to go five innings in order to qualify for a win.
Ace Max Scherzer didn’t do that here Thursday, but the Nationals could probably care less after he returned from the injured list in a 7-1 victory against the Pirates. Howie Kendrick, who had three RBIs, hit a two-run homer, and Victor Robles and Asdrubal Cabrera drove in runs later in the eighth to make it 6-1. Anthony Rendon homered in the ninth.
Scherzer came off the injured list to start after he dealt with a mild rhomboid strain and back issues earlier in the year. It was the first start for Scherzer since July 25, when he went just five innings against Colorado.
Scherzer allowed one run and four hits in four innings while throwing 71 pitches against the Pirates.
Reliever Wander Suero took over in the fifth and didn’t allow a run.
Hunter Strickland, who broke his nose Tuesday lifting weights, did the same out of the bullpen in the sixth as a slight rain began. Strickland also retired the side in the seventh as he pitched two innings for the first time since August 22, 2018 when he was with the Giants.
Scherzer also pitched with a broken nose this season, at home in June against Philadelphia.
The 35-year-old has an ERA of 2.41 and is among the league leaders in strikeouts with 192 after he fanned three Pirates.
The Nationals jumped on Pirates starter Steven Brault (3-3) early.
Trea Turner led off with a double in the first as he reached base for the 29th game in a row. Adam Eaton reached on a infield single and Turner came around to score as Josh Bell couldn’t handle the throw at first base.
Kendrick drove in a run with a groundout to give the visitors a lead of 2-0. Those were the only runs Brault gave up, as he went six innings.
Adam Frazier, the leadoff hitter for the Pirates, hit a solo homer off Scherzer in the third to trim the margin to 2-1.
It was the 11th homer allowed in 21 starts this year for Scherzer.
Fernando Rodney pitched a scoreless eighth and xx went the ninth for Nationals.
Washington began the day six games back of the first-place Atlanta Braves in the National League East.
The Pirates (52-75) are 5-14 this month and only 10,587 fans ventured out for Thursday’s game.
Washington second baseman Brian Dozier came off the paternity list to start. To make room for Scherzer and Dozier, the Nationals sent pitcher Kyle McGowin and infielder Adrian Sanchez to Double-A Harrisburg.
The Nationals will have short rest before playing Friday at 2:20 p.m. EST in Chicago against the Cubs. Anibal Sanchez (7-6, 3.99) will get the start for Washington against Jon Lester (10-8, 4.23) of the Cubs.
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