Max Scherzer was hardly at his best the last time out, or against the Miami Marlins earlier this season.
He'll try to improve on both performances for the Washington Nationals in Thursday's decisive finale at Marlins Park.
For the third time this season and second in his last four starts, Scherzer (10-8, 2.33 ERA) allowed a season-high five runs Friday before leaving without a decision in a 7-5 loss at Pittsburgh - the same club he no-hit June 20. All the damage off Scherzer came via a season-high three homers while he lasted fewer than seven innings for the third time in those four starts after doing so on three occasions in his first 16.
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''That's the stuff I relish and want to do to help the team, pitch deep into a game and I wasn't able to do that," he said.
Scherzer has yielded six of his 13 home runs while going 1-2 with a 4.81 ERA in his last four starts.
"That's going to happen," manager Matt Williams.
Though Washington (53-46) beat Miami 7-5 on May 6, the right-hander gave up a three-run shot to the currently injured Giancarlo Stanton, two other runs, a season-high 10 hits and struck out 10 without a walk over seven innings.
Miami (42-59), however, has totaled 10 runs and batted .213 while losing four of five. The Marlins managed five hits and watched as Bryce Harper homered twice during Wednesday's 7-2 defeat.
Harper's hit six of his career-high 29 home runs and has 12 of his personal-best 68 RBIs while batting .385 (10 for 26) in eight games against Miami this season.
''I could remember when the kid came out a lot of people compared him to a young Mickey Mantle, that type of thunder,'' Marlins manager Dan Jennings said. ''He's a special hitter.''
One of those homers came off ex-Nationals pitcher Dan Haren (7-6, 3.51) when the right-hander allowed two runs in five innings of a 6-2 victory over Washington on April 26.
Possibly making his last Marlins start with trade rumors swirling around him, Haren is 4-2 with a 2.83 ERA in 10 home starts but has gone 0-1 with a 6.00 ERA in two outings since the All-Star break - both on the road. He's yielded five home runs in those two starts with three coming over six innings in Friday's 3-1 loss at San Diego.
''It was very frustrating,'' said Haren, who won't use the lingering trade speculation as an excuse.
"It's not my first time I have gone through this,'' he said. ''I keep up to date with some stuff but it is not fun for anybody especially having a family. I don't really have any control over it. It's like turbulence on a plane. There is nothing you can do about it.''
Miami is reportedly trying to iron out a three-team deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta that includes starter Mat Latos and Michael Morse.
"I would say that they are in a holding pattern, pending," Jennings said.
Batting .357 in his last 11 contests, Martin Prado also could be traded by Friday's deadline. He's 6 for 10 with a double against Scherzer.
Dee Gordon is 6 for 15 with a home run and double against him.