The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Max Scherzer delivers a gem for the Nationals, then rushes to help his wife deliver their third child

Max Scherzer pitched a complete game, Ryan Zimmerman hit a three-run homer, and the Nationals completed a sweep of the Marlins. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Max Scherzer didn’t stick around Sunday afternoon to discuss another pitching masterpiece after his complete game — which got some assistance from Ryan Zimmerman at the plate — propelled the Washington Nationals to a 3-1 win over the Miami Marlins.

The Nationals’ ace right-hander had a slightly more urgent matter to attend to with his wife, Erica, going into labor with the couple’s third child. So Manager Dave Martinez and teammates simply wished him well as Scherzer briskly departed Nationals Park.

It was just another remarkable series of events for a player whose focus and moxie on the mound have been virtually unmatched since he arrived in D.C. in 2015 with a seven-year deal worth $210 million that Zimmerman deemed a bargain in hindsight.

“For him to go complete game and pitch the way he did today, then go over and have a baby with his wife — pretty cool day for him,” said Zimmerman, who also has experience becoming a father during a baseball season. “We’re happy for him. He never ceases to amaze me is, I guess, the best way to put it.”

Last time out: Josh Bell takes another step forward as the Nationals rout the Marlins, 7-2

Scherzer, 36, recorded his ninth strikeout, getting Corey Dickerson swinging, to end the game in a tidy 2 hours 37 minutes. He yielded one earned run on five hits and no walks over 106 pitches to give Washington its season-best fourth straight win and cap the Nationals’ first three-game series sweep since 2019.

Zimmerman provided all of the Nationals’ offense, depositing a three-run homer deep over the center field wall against Miami starter Trevor Rogers in the third inning. The first baseman’s four homers are second on the team behind Trea Turner’s six, and Zimmerman’s 10 RBI are tied for second with Turner behind Starlin Castro’s 13.

The production from Scherzer and Zimmerman elevated Washington (12-12) to .500 for the first time since it was 1-1 on April 7, and it ensured the club would enter Monday’s day off in a virtual tie for first place in the National League East.

“It almost comes down to, [in] some of these outings, he finds these new motivations,” catcher Yan Gomes said. “Obviously from the broken nose thing [in 2019], he found a new motivation for that, just came out and dealt, and today after the game we talked a little bit. He was like: ‘Having the baby tonight. Might as well pitch like that, or pitch like a man’ — in the words of Max.”

There was a bit of pregame excitement as well, with Juan Soto apparently moving another step closer to rejoining the lineup. The Nationals’ slugging right fielder has been absent since he was placed on the 10-day injured list April 20 with a strained left shoulder, but Martinez said Soto threw from 120 feet Sunday, moving back 30 feet from the distance he threw from Saturday morning, when he played catch with head athletic trainer Dale Gilbert as physical therapist Seth Blee stood by.

This time it was Soto, wearing a dark Nationals warmup shirt, and Gilbert during a brief but animated session. Afterward, they discussed Soto’s throwing motion for several minutes. Then Soto tossed one of the two baseballs in his possession to a spectator who had made her way down near the field.

Moments later, Soto did another fan one better, autographing the other baseball before departing for the clubhouse. He signed using a pen Gilbert had in his pocket and gave the souvenir to a member of ballpark security, who presented it to a giddy youngster wearing a pink Nationals cap.

“We’ll see how he gets through today, and then we’ll go from there,” Martinez said of Soto, who led the NL with a .351 batting average last season at 21. “Hopefully it won’t be that much longer. I mean, he feels good, so we’ll see.”

After three great starts (and one dud) this season, Joe Ross is still his harshest critic

Scherzer was aiming for his own comeback of sorts Sunday after he permitted a season-high five earned runs, including a pair of homers, in a 9-5 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays in his previous start Tuesday. Scherzer has been even nastier than usual in his next start after surrendering at least four earned runs. In six such instances dating from last season, the three-time Cy Young Award winner entered Sunday with an ERA of 1.63 over 38⅔ innings with 51 strikeouts and eight walks.

Add another gem to that docket.

Scherzer faced the minimum through four innings against Miami (11-16) and bailed out second baseman Jordy Mercer in the fifth. After Mercer threw wildly over Zimmerman’s head to try to complete a double play, Scherzer got former Nationals catcher Sandy León to fly out to left before gloving a Monte Harrison chopper and tossing to first to end the inning.

Scherzer did not yield anything more harmful than a single until Isan Díaz homered to lead off the ninth.

“He’s ready to go play daddy for a while and [be] a good husband,” Martinez said. “I told him, I said, ‘Hey, congratulations, shower up, and let me know what happens.’ ”

Read more on the Nationals:

The charm of spring training lives on at the Florida home of the Blue Jays

After Juan Soto returns, can the Nats make room for Yadiel Hernandez? It’s complicated.

Boswell: The Nationals didn’t seek this early-season pain, but they might be growing from it