Asked earlier this Spring for his takeaway from the 2015 campaign, 31-year-old Washington Nationals' right-hander Max Scherzer, who threw two no-hitters, set a Nationals' franchise record (2005-present) for strikeouts in a season, and led the major leagues in SO/BB ratio (7.62 SO/BB), talked about throwing first-pitch strikes and limiting the free passes as being the keys to his success.
"I was really proud of -- it was a career-high in first-pitch strikes, and a career-low in walks," Scherzer told reporters.
"I really attacked the zone at a really high rate last year and that's what I was really, really happy -- that I had that consistency to be able to throw a strike whenever I needed to.
"That's something that you look at early here in Spring Training to see if I can't get back on that program."
Scherzer made his first start of the Spring this afternoon in Viera, Florida's Space Coast Stadium, taking on the New York Mets he no-hit in his final start of the season last October.
He started Mets' leadoff man Alejandro De Aza off with a strike, of course. #Maxlovesnarratives
Scherzer gave up a two-out single by Michael Conforto, but completed a quick, scoreless opening frame with help from Anthony Rendon, whose move back to third base paid immediate dividends when he made a diving/lunging play and strong throw to first to end the inning... and didn't injure his knee!
Scherzer took the mound with a 4-0 lead in the second after Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon and Reed Johnson hit RBI singles off Mets' right-hander Rafael Montero, and retired the side in order to complete his second scoreless frame. 22 pitches total, 14 strikes, one fist bump.
Max Scherzer's first spring outing is complete after 2 scoreless IP, 1 hit. 22 pitches, 14 strikes. Fist bump from @dbaker_12 on his way off— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) March 3, 2016
Yusmeiro Petit, in his debut for the Nationals after signing a free agent deal this winter, threw a scoreless third before giving up a run on an RBI single in the top of the fourth. 4-1 Nationals.
Sean Burnett, in his return to the Nationals, worked around a HBP in a scoreless inning of work in the top of the fifth, and the Nationals added a run on an RBI groundout by Brendan Ryan in the bottom of the frame. 5-1 WAS.
Lefty Nick Masset took over for the Nats in the top of the sixth and retired the Mets in order.
Trea Turner hit his first home run of the Spring, taking Mets' right-hander Paul Sewald deep for a solo blast that put the Nationals up 6-1. #areyounotimpressedDusty
Not to be outdone, Stephen Drew drove in two with a single to center later in the sixth, putting the Nationals up 8-1 after six innings.
Taylor Jordan gave up three runs in the eighth as the Mets' broadcast inexplicably broke into commercials mid-inning, 8-4 Nationals.
Matt den Dekker drove in a run in the bottom of the eighth, putting the Nationals up 9-4, but Spence Kieboom was thrown out at home trying to score a second run.
Nick Lee took the mound in the ninth and retired the Mets in order to end it. Ballgame. 9-4 Nationals.
• Game Notes: Leadoff man Ben Revere was 2 for 2 in his first two Grapefruit League at bats with the Nationals, with a stolen base after his first single.
Bryce Harper singled and stole second in the first as well, perhaps (SSS noted) signaling an increased/new willingness to run on the Nationals' behalf under new Nats' skipper Dusty Baker and his baserunning guru/first base coach Davey Lopes.
• As mentioned above (in the pull quote) Scherzer said earlier this Spring that he was careful not to show opposing hitters everything in Spring Training, and as he told reporters, including MASNSports.com's Mark Zuckerman, today, that was the case this afternoon:
Scherzer said he purposely held back vs Mets hitters: "Gotta keep it vanilla. I'm not going to show them the chocolate and the strawberry."— Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) March 3, 2016
• Hey, hey, Trea... Turner! We'll say it again, future Super Two status be damned, #OpeningDayTrea, please! No offense to Danny Espinosa, who will get plenty of starts and at bats as the utility man.
Turner homered to left field off Mets' right-hander Paul Sewald in the Nationals' half of the sixth.
• Random thing we learned today: Nats' relief option Burke Badenhop is an aspiring screenwriter.