Dusty Baker was asked before the start of tonight’s Game 5 of the NLDS with the Los Angeles Dodgers in the nation’s capital, if he was concerned that Max Scherzer might be too amped up for his own good early in his second outing of the series, with a late start time, the season on the line and a full house in Nationals Park.
“Max is an amped-up kind of guy,” Baker said.
“But I'd rather have -- I mean, his ampedness — if there is such a word — has worked pretty good for him over the course of his career, and he is a 20-game winner.
“You know, I'm sure a lot of teams would have liked to have Max pitch this exciting game right here.”
Asked what he would look for as positive signs from his starter to know that Scherzer was sharp, Baker said he wanted to see the right-hander’s command.
“Some of the signs earlier are if he has his control of his fastball, then if he really has control of his secondary pitches, his slider and his changeup, then you know Max is -- the other team is in for a long day.
“You hope that Max has a short first couple innings and not high-pitch-count innings. That's what you look for.”
Scherzer and the fans in Nationals Park were definitely amped from the first pitch of tonight’s win-or-go-home series finale with the Dodgers.
Scherzer retired the first six batters he faced on 30 pitches, took a no-hit bid into the fifth and threw six scoreless innings on 98 pitches, at which point Dusty Baker had a decision to make.
Did he bring Max Scherzer out with a 1-0 lead and close to a hundred pitches or go to the bullpen?
Baker stuck with his starter, but one pitch into the seventh, it was a tie game after Joc Pederson hit a 96 mph fastball outside to left for a solo home run.
The Dodgers added three more runs in the seventh inning and went on to a 4-3 win that gave them the division series and ended the Nationals’ 2016 campaign.
Baker was asked after the loss if he had thought about going to the bullpen for the top of the seventh.
“No, I didn’t think about pulling him then,” he said. “I mean, we’ve never seen Pederson hit the ball out in left field since we’ve played him.
“You know, a couple of years ago when they took [Jordan] Zimmermann out of the game, and everybody was crying about that — why they took him out of the game — and if I had taken him out — I mean, Max said he was still good. We were hoping to get another inning out of him.
“No, it’s easy to say after the fact. If somebody had told me and Max that the guy was going to hit an opposite-field home run, we’d have taken him out. But how do you take out your — a guy in a 1-0 game. And Max is capable of throwing 100-some-odd pitches.”
“I gave as good an effort as I’ve ever given in my life to put everything I’ve got on every single pitch and the pitch I got beat on, I hit my spot,” Scherzer said.
“He put a better swing on it... I mean, I executed my pitch, he just made a great swing on it.”
Dodgers’ skipper Dave Roberts was impressed with Scherzer’s effort.
“I think it’s one of those things that Max was lights-out, he really was, for six innings and we really couldn’t get anything going and he got out of some traffic earlier,” Roberts told reporters after the game.
“But after that homer to tie the game, it just gave us a chance to exhale a little bit.”
Baker went out to get Scherzer at that point, but Marc Rzepczynski walked Yasmani Grandal, Blake Treinen gave up a broken-bat single to left by Howie Kendrick, Sammy Solis gave up an RBI single by Carlos Ruiz and Shawn Kelley gave up a two-run triple that put the Dodgers up 4-1.
Chris Heisey’s two-run, pinch hit home run in the seventh made it a one-run game, but the Nationals couldn’t get the tying run, and they dropped Game 5 of the NLDS to the Dodgers.
“I’m just proud of everybody,” a clearly dejected Scherzer said after the loss.
“The effort everybody gave tonight was unreal. I mean, up and down, everybody gave their best. They executed just a little bit better than us. That’s probably one of, if not the, craziest games I’ve ever been part of in my career, in my life. Man, this is a tough one to be on the wrong side of.”