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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In his last start Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals hit the first home run of his major league career on August 1 in Miami against the Marlins.
But that bragging point was overshadowed a few minutes later when he had to leave the game with a sore neck after he slept awkwardly on it a few nights earlier. He left after throwing just one inning and took himself out of the game while warming up in the last of the second.
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Scherzer with an extra day of rest, is slated to start at home Monday when the first-place Nationals begin a four-game series with National League East division foe Miami.
A right-handed ace, Scherzer (12-5, 2.21 ERA) has no doubt he is ready.
"We were like, we can just throw a bullpen tomorrow when I'm truly 100 percent because I've made progress every single day, and in 24 to 48 hours it's going to be completely gone," Scherzer told reporters Friday.
The Nationals (65-44) are coming off a series win in Chicago against the Cubs. Washington rallied for its latest win Matt Wieters hit a grand slam in the eighth inning in a 9-4 win during a series when the Nationals did not use pitchers Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg or Gio Gonzalez.
"Our bullpen came in and kept it close," Wieters told Mid-Atlantic Sports Network after the game. "Every game is different. You have to go out there and play. You have to play nine innings and see what happens."
Scherzer is 6-3 in 12 career starts against the Marlins and has posted a 3.45 ERA. Earlier this season he had a no-hitter going into the eighth inning at Miami but ended up with the loss.
But coming out of the game last week had some Nationals fans worried.
"So no one's even concerned, really. It's just doing what we think is best to make the start Monday," Scherzer said.
Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich is 7-for-21 (.333) in his career with two homers against Scherzer while teammate Giancarlo Stanton is 3-for-12 (.250) with a homer.
Miami's Marcell Ozuna, who is 5-for-22 (.227) with two homers in his career against Scherzer, has been trying to find his swing since the All-Star break.
"It's hard to explain because I change every at-bat," Ozuna told mlb.com. "Every at-bat, I change bats and I change style. If I get a home run with that bat, I get another bat. I change the style.
Ozuna is hitting .306 with 26 homers this year but .269 since the All-Star break.
"Every at-bat is different. I say, 'OK, you want to be the same, be consistent.' But every at-bat, I change," he said.
After Ozuna hit a three-run homer in Sunday's 4-1 win at Atlanta, the Marlins will start lefty Chris O'Grady (2-1, 4.50).
O'Grady went three innings in his last start, against Washington, before he was taken out for a pinch-hitter. He gave up six runs on seven hits and allowed the three-run homer to Scherzer.
"I actually got plenty of funny texts about it," O'Grady told the Miami Herald of the homer.
He is a product of nearby George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia and has made five career starts.
The second-place Marlins, who are 13 games back of Washington, will head to the nation's capital after a weekend series in Atlanta against the Braves losing two of three in Atlanta.
The Nationals have several new faces since the All-Star break and even the last time they played at Nationals Park, which was July 30. Washington has played just seven home games since July 10 and is 4-3 against the Cubs this year after taking two of three this weekend.
The Nationals certainly need Scherzer to step up as former starter Joe Ross is out for the year with a right elbow strain, Strasburg is on the disabled list with a right elbow impingement and lefty starter Gonzalez has been on the paternity list since Saturday.