Max Scherzer wants the ball. Washington’s 20-game winning ace will get it tonight in the NLDS opener in Nationals Park. Scherzer will take on Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers at 5:38 PM EDT in D.C. He wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It's what you play this game for,” Scherzer told reporters on Thursday afternoon.
“You don't measure yourself against the worst; you measure yourself against the best. And I think this is best opponent I could possibly face with the Dodgers and Kershaw throwing.
“This is something you always remember. You want to be in these situations, because this is too much fun, to be able to go up and face a team and pitcher of this caliber.”
Dusty Baker said it was comforting to know he had his No. 1 starter ready to take on the Dodgers in first game of the division series.
“Oh, yeah, very comforting,” Baker said.
“You've got a 20-game winner and you have a bulldog on the mound and a guy that's risen to the occasion and been in this situation before.
“We have an equally tough competitor on the other side, and so it should be a heck of a ballgame. But it's great to have Max Scherzer on your side and also a healthy Max Scherzer. You know, he wants the ball. Max wants the ball, especially in big games.”
Kershaw has struggled at times in the postseason (4.59 ERA, .219/.290/.363 line against in 64 2⁄3 IP), but neither the lefty or his manager seemed to concerned with the past as they talked about the southpaw leading the charge in Game 1 against the Nationals.
“I remember; I recall -- you know, I recall the starts, some of them,” Dave Roberts told a reporter who asked about Kershaw’s previous postseason outings, “but as far as digging into his successes or, you know, certain starts that probably didn't go his way, I don't read too much into it and haven't looked back on it. I don't think it has any bearing on this postseason, the start tomorrow. And I really don't think Clayton cares either.”
“I don't really watch video of myself,” Kershaw said, when asked if he’d gone back to see what went wrong in previous starts.
“Yeah, I don't really -- I never really have. You know, if [Pitching Coach Rick Honeycutt] sees something mechanically or something he wants me to watch, he'll obviously show me.
“I'm kind of by that day. If we have a good day and we win, I'll celebrate and enjoy it. If I have a bad day and I lose, I'll be disappointed and then come back the next day and think about the next team.”
There’s something of a mutual admiration society between the two starters as well.
Scherzer told reporters he was impressed with everything Kershaw can do.
“He's not walking anybody. I think that's probably the first and foremost thing; that he's absolutely attacking you with all of his stuff,” Scherzer explained.
“He's not going to walk anybody. I think that's probably the most impressive thing or the thing I take most away from his game.”
Kershaw said Scherzer was one of the best in the National League this season and, “... if not the frontrunner to win the Cy Young, definitely in the top two or three, so, we know we’ve got our hands full for sure.”
“His fastball is one of the best fastballs if not the best fastball from a starter that you’ll see,” Kershaw continued.
“I’m not a big sabermetric guy, but the old spin rate thing -- it probably plays true to him more than anything. He gets so many swings and misses on his fastball, every pitch really, changeup, slider, he’s throwing curveballs now. It’s not an easy at bat, I’ve never faced him, but just watching guys swing it’s just like you can’t square up that heater, so I don’t expect it to be a blowout tomorrow by any means.”
We don’t have to wait much longer to see how things turn out, and as Scherzer talked he got excited thinking about the prospect of taking the mound in the nation’s capital.
“Oh, I can't wait to come out here,” Scherzer said.
“It's probably just going to be rocking. Man, if that was happening, I love it when fans are all making their noise. I'm a high-adrenaline pitcher and I know how to feed off of it, and hopefully tomorrow at 5:30, this place is rocking.”
You heard the man, Nationals fans. Get there early and get loud. It’s almost time for the start of the NLDS. Scherzer vs Kershaw at 5:38 PM EDT this afternoon in D.C.
• We talked to “The District” podcast about the NLDS matchup with the Dodgers and more last night. Nationals talk starts at 20:00: