MIAMI (AP) — Max Scherzer slept funny, which is why he wasn’t smiling when he left Tuesday’s game in the second inning with neck spasms.
The NL All-Star starter hit his first career homer to help build a six-run lead, but the Miami Marlins rallied against the Washington Nationals’ bullpen to win 7-6 on Tuesday.
Scherzer said he woke up with a stiff neck a couple of days earlier, and it became more bothersome when the game began.
“It hurt when I turned to look left,” he said. “In the first inning I could tell I wasn’t right. It was hard for me to pick up the target. When I went out in the second inning, I could tell it had tightened up even more, and I knew it was time to pull the chute.”
Scherzer said the issue’s not serious, and added he didn’t aggravate it hitting his homer.
“You know it had to be something for him to come out of a game up six runs,” manager Dusty Baker said. “We’re just glad it wasn’t his arm.”
After Scherzer stunned his teammates with his home run, he threw a pitch to the backstop warming up for the second inning and walked off the mound pointing to his neck and shaking his head. Manager Dusty Baker came out of the dugout to meet Scherzer, who said, “I can’t go.”
That was all the opening the Marlins needed, even down 6-0.
“Losing him early, gives you hope that you can get back in a little bit,” Miami manager Don Mattingly said. “Not that you can’t do it with him, but the chances aren’t very good.”
The Marlins took the lead with a four-run fifth inning. Marcell Ozuna hit a three-run homer off Matt Albers (5-2), and Derek Dietrich’s RBI triple put Miami ahead 7-6.
Six pitchers combined to blank Washington over the final 7 2/3 innings. Dustin McGowan (7-1) pitched two scoreless innings during Miami’s comeback.
Brad Ziegler, promoted to closer after A.J. Ramos was traded last week, pitched the ninth and worked around a pair of two-out singles for his 86th career save and first this year. Ryan Zimmerman grounded out to end the game.
Ziegler had been sidelined since June 20 because of a strained back.
“I had a lot of adrenaline, a lot more than usual because I hadn’t faced a big league hitter in six weeks,” he said.
Howie Kendrick hit his first homer since being acquired Friday by Washington and went 5 for 5.
Scherzer pitched a 1-2-3 first inning, and in the top of the second he hit a three-run homer — his first in 262 career at-bats.
“Not being able to look left actually helped on my swing,” Scherzer said with a chuckle. “I didn’t pull my head out. I had to stay locked in, and that gave me a better swing, and that’s the reason I hit a home run.”
Scherzer pulled an 0-2 slider into the first row in left field, and Baker laughed as he watched his ace circle the bases. When Scherzer returned to the dugout, teammates gave him the silent treatment, so he high-fived the air before being mobbed with congratulations.
“I put a one-in-a-million swing on it,” Scherzer said. “I’ll make sure my teammates know I hit a home run for a while. I’ll probably have shirts made.”
But for the Nationals, the game wasn’t a laugher for long.
The second-place Marlins still trail the NL East-leading Nationals by 13 games. Injury-plagued Miami took another hit with the announcement that opening day starter Edinson Volquez will undergo Tommy John surgery Friday.
Former Minnesota Twins All-Star right-hander Brandon Kintzler, acquired by the Nationals in a trade Monday, is expected to join them Wednesday. He’s the third reliever obtained by the team since mid-July.
Nationals RHP A.J. Cole (1-0, 1.50) will be recalled from Triple-A Syracuse to start the rubber game of the series Wednesday against RHP Vance Worley (0-2, 6.42). Cole’s only previous major league outing this year was May 6 against Philadelphia.
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