"I want it," Max Scherzer told Matt Williams when the Washington Nationals' skipper came out to the mound with two down in the seventh inning of last Friday's game with the Miami Marlins in the nation's capital.
"I [expletive deleted] want it," Scherzer appeared to say. "I [expletive deleted] want it."
He wasn't being insubordinate, or showing his manager up. He was answering a question.
Scherzer was just determined to retire Dee Gordon after he gave up a one-out double by Miguel Rojas in what was a 2-2 game at that point. He struck pinch hitter Casey McGehee out for the second out of the frame, at which point Williams came out to talk.
Williams, as he told reporters in that night's post game press conference, just wanted to make sure Scherzer was good to go.
"I just wanted to make sure I looked him in the eye," Williams said. Did he even think of taking Scherzer out?
"No. No. Just wanted to go make sure that he was good to go for the next guy, knew he was."
"I asked him. I said, 'Do you want him?' And he said, 'Yeah'... Among other things. I don't know if you can read lips, but yeah."
"Some yelling, some four-letter words and ‘I want the ball’ is basically the gist of it," Scherzer told reporters, including Washington Post writer James Wagner, when asked about the exchange:
"I’ve done that for a while now," he said. "I’ve done it to some pitching coaches and managers [like Jim] Leyland and [Brad] Ausmus in the past. You just have to have the belief in yourself when your situations arise. I always know I still have my best bolt left. I know I’m good to go and I’m ready to face anybody in the league in that situation. Not that I’m going to get everybody out but I have the attitude that I can succeed in those situations."
"Talk about (making) a mountain out of a molehill," Ausmus said of the "controversy" around the exchange.
"He's emotional on the mound. When he wants to stay on the mound, he's very emphatic about it. He wasn't yelling at Matt about anything."
Williams said the same this morning when he was asked about the mound visit again in his weekly appearance on the MLB Network Radio show "First Pitch".
When the question was framed as if Scherzer had said he was not coming out of the ballgame and wasn't giving up the ball, Williams was clear that wasn't how things transpired.
"That was his last start and no offense to you, or anyone else who has talked about it, [that] is completely inaccurate," Williams politely explained.
"I walked out there. He had just struck out the pinch hitter, McGehee, and he's to the top of the order against Dee Gordon. We know it's going to be his last inning, so I walk out there to give him a little bit of a break and to pump him up a little bit.
"He's had some deep games this season and so, the fact of the matter is, if I had wanted to go to the bullpen I would have pointed to the bullpen. I didn't do that, so I walked out there, I asked him the question, 'Do you want this guy?' And then... he... responded."
"So it wasn't that -- he was never coming out of the game anyway, and it makes for a good story and it makes for people talking about it, but there was never any intention of him coming out of the game anyway.
"I just wanted to give him a little bit of a blow and pump him up a little bit, throw some energy at it and he ended up getting Dee for that last out."
Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo discussed the "incident" in his own appearance on MLB Network Radio on Sunday.
"Love it," Rizzo said. "Always have loved that kind of professionalism and a guy who wants the ball and if we had more Max Scherzer's attitude on this team the better I would like it."
And Williams' reaction to Scherzer's insistence that he was good to go for the last out of the inning?
"I though it was great. He went out there and Max was adamant about that he wanted to get the hitter and you've got to trust your horses and the guys who have brought you to the point where we're at right now and give them a chance to do it, and the more you give a guy a chance to do it, the rope to do that, and he gets it done, it makes it easier to give him the rope the next time. I think that "Mad Max" has proven himself over the years that he's a guy that's earned and deserved that type of respect and Matt showed it to him and he was rewarded by getting a really tough hitter out in a crucial situation."
Scherzer got out of the seventh inning and the Nationals ended up winning the game, 5-4, on a walk-off sac fly by Jose Lobaton.
Scherzer takes the mound again tonight in the second game of three with the Baltimore Orioles in D.C.
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