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Preview: Nationals (66-65) at Cardinals (86-46)

Game: 3
Venue: Busch Stadium
Date: September 02, 2015 8:15 PM EDT

If the Washington Nationals are going to make a September push, they’re probably going to need Max Scherzer to start pitching like a Cy Young Award candidate again.

The right-hander may be especially motivated to turn things around in his hometown.

Mired in arguably his worst stretch, Scherzer will try to help the Nationals end their road woes Wednesday night in a showdown with Michael Wacha and the St. Louis Cardinals.

A native of Chesterfield, Missouri, Scherzer (11-11, 2.88 ERA) was drafted by St. Louis in the 43rd round in 2003 before opting to attend the University of Missouri.

He was selected by Arizona three years later as the 11th overall pick. Scherzer last pitched at Busch Stadium in the final start of his 2008 rookie year with the Diamondbacks.

The 2013 AL Cy Young winner looked like a 2015 NL candidate on July 19 when he was 10-8 with a 2.08 ERA and had thrown a no-hitter versus Pittsburgh in June. However, he’s struggled to a 1-3 record and 5.63 mark over his last seven outings.

The 31-year-old will try to avoid dropping a career-worst fourth consecutive start after giving up four runs and six hits, including two home runs, over seven innings in Friday’s 4-3 home loss to Miami.

“Slider, changeup, curveball, they are all there,” Scherzer told MLB’s official website. “I’m not sitting here kicking chairs around because I’m frustrated how I pitched. My stuff is there.”

Scherzer is 0-2 with a 3.71 ERA in three career starts against the MLB-leading Cardinals. In his only other meeting this season, he yielded two runs over seven innings in a 4-1 loss April 23.

Mark Reynolds is day to day after leaving Tuesday’s 8-5 win when he was hit by a pitch on the right wrist. Brandon Moss delivered a walk-off, three-run homer as the Cardinals scored five in the last two innings.

The Nationals (66-65) missed a chance to trim their 6 1/2-game deficit behind the first-place New York Mets in the NL East. They’ve dropped nine straight in St. Louis and 12 of 15 overall on the road.

“We had a two-run lead in the eighth and couldn’t get it done,” said manager Matt Williams, whose club also blew a two-run lead in the seventh in Monday’s 8-5 defeat.

St. Louis (86-46), which is 40 games over .500 for the first time since 2005, has averaged 6.5 runs during a 9-1 stretch. Stephen Piscotty is batting .421 with 11 RBIs over a nine-game hitting streak.

“Just the style of play that they bring every single day,” manager Mike Matheny said. “They are deserving to have whatever kind of acknowledgment is out there.”

Wacha (15-4, 2.69), who has replaced injured Adam Wainwright as the club’s ace, has gone 4-0 with an 0.92 ERA over his last six starts and is 4-1 with a 1.99 mark in his past seven at Busch.

The 24-year-old has been dominant versus Washington, going 2-1 with an 0.79 ERA in three outings. He earned the win opposite Scherzer in April, giving up one run over seven innings.

Bryce Harper (2 for 9), Anthony Rendon (1 for 6), Ian Desmond (1 for 9) and Jayson Werth (0 for 6) haven’t had much success versus Wacha. Werth, though, had his third straight two-hit game Tuesday.

Wilson Ramos is batting .394 with three homers over a nine-game hitting streak, while Ryan Zimmerman is batting .303 with five home runs and 15 RBIs over his last eight.