Scherzer's turn to flirt with no-hitter as Nationals beat Cards 3-1

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Los Angeles (AFP)

Washington's Max Scherzer became the second pitcher to flirt with a no-hitter in as many days as the Nationals stunned Adam Wainwright and the St. Louis Cardinals 3-1 in game two of the National League Championship Series.

Scherzer took a no-hitter into the seventh inning and new dad Daniel Hudson closed it out in the ninth to preserve the win for the visiting Nationals, who took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

"I came in and my arm didn't feel great," he said. "But around the fourth or fifth inning I felt like everything kind of loosened up in my shoulder.

"I was able to find my arm slot and I was driving my fastball into locations where I wanted."

The Nationals, who rallied to upset the 106-win Los Angeles Dodgers in the previous round, are now just two wins away from advancing to the World Series.

The best-of-seven NL Championship series shifts to Washington for games three and four. The winner will take on either the New York Yankees or Houston Astros in the World Series.

Scherzer's gem came less than 24 hours after Anibal Sanchez took a no-hitter into the eighth inning in Washington's 2-0 win in game one.

Scherzer didn't allow a hit Saturday until Paul Goldschmidt led off the seventh inning with a single. Sanchez had his no-hit bid busted up by a single from Jose Martinez.

"For me, I'm just in the moment," Scherzer said. "I'm not trying to do anything great."

Scherzer finished with 11 strikeouts, allowed one hit and walked two and has been pitching on just a few days rest in these playoffs.

"He was dynamite," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said of Scherzer.

Cardinals ace Wainwright also fanned 11 batters as he allowed seven hits in 7 1/3 innings.

Right hander Hudson closed it out for his third save of the post-season. He missed the series opener to be with his wife, Sara, for the birth of their third child, a girl.

Scherzer said after Saturday's game that one of the keys to their success if the way he communicates with catcher Kurt Suzuki.

"There are multiple ways to skin a cat," Scherzer said. "We just try to find what is going to work in the game. We work well together and we know how to play the chess game."

- Season of comeback -

This is the season of the comeback for the Nationals, who got off to a 19-31 start before going 74-38 the rest of the way.

They rallied from three runs down in the wild card game to beat the Milwaukee Brewers 4-3 then came from behind to eliminated the Dodgers in the NLDS. Down 3-0 they won it in the 10th inning when Howie Kendrick blasted a grand slam home run.

They became the first team to come back from three run deficits in back-to-back deciding games in the playoffs.

The Cardinals hitters struggled, producing just five baserunners against Scherzer and relievers Sean Doolittle, Patrick Corbin and Hudson.

"We've been shut down pretty much for two games in a row," said Cardinals manager Mike Shildt.