Max Scherzer was on a bit of a run heading into last night’s matchup with the Atlanta Braves in the nation’s capital. The defending NL Cy Young winner had a streak of eight straight outings with two earned runs or less allowed going, over which he was (6-2), with a 0.89 ERA, 10 walks, 87 Ks and a stingy .117/.180/.194 line against in 61 innings pitched.
Scherzer was coming off a seven-inning start in St. Louis in which he held the Cardinals scoreless over seven innings on the mound in Busch Stadium, walking two and striking out 12 in what ended up a 7-2 win for Washington.
Scherzer impressed on a national stage that night, on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball.
Nationals’ skipper Dusty Baker said he wasn’t surprised. “You know in a game like this on a national scale on ESPN he really comes out ready,” Baker said, as quoted by St. Louis Post-Dispatch writer Mitchell Forde.
Scherzer was asked after the start vs the Cardinals about the possibility of once again taking the mound on a big stage if he’s asked to start for the National League in the 2017 MLB All-Star Game.
“I’ve still got another start left,” Scherzer said. “I’m not talking about the All-Star game until we’re actually there.”
His teammates were, however, willing to state his case for him when Scherzer, Daniel Murphy, Bryce Harper, and Ryan Zimmerman met with reporters earlier this week.
“Should Scherzer start [in the All-Star Game]?” a reporter asked.
“He’s pretty good,” Zimmerman said.
“He does okay,” Murphy added.
“I think he’s earned it, you look at the numbers,” Zimmerman added.
Scherzer started the night on Friday with the lowest ERA (1.94), the lowest batting average against (.159), lowest opponents’ OBP (.223), lowest opponents’ slugging percentage (.280), lowest WHIP (0.77) and hits per nine innings (5.00) in the majors, and the NL lead in Ks (163), and K/9 (12.16), and the second-highest total innings pitched (120 2⁄3 IP).
Scherzer’s 0.77 WHIP was also the fourth-best prior to the All-Star Break in MLB history (since 1913).
Scherzer retired the first nine batters he faced in the second game of four with the Braves on Friday night, on 33 pitches, before Ender Inciarte doubled to right-center to lead off the fourth, and Atlanta’s leadoff man scored one out later on an RBI single to right by Brandon Phillips, 1-0.
Matt Adams doubled with one down and took third on a passed ball in the Braves’ half of the fifth, but Scherzer got a weak groundout to third from Tyler Flowers, and a swinging K from Dansby Swanson with a 96 mph 1-2 fastball to strand Adams 90-feet from home and keep it a 1-0 deficit.
Scherzer collected two Ks (for six total) in a quick, 15-pitch sixth inning, and the Nationals rallied for their first hit and first run off R.A. Dickey in the home-half of the frame, tying the game, 1-1, but a solo shot to right by the Braves’ Nats-killing first baseman Freddie Freeman, on an 0-1 slider from Scherzer, put the visiting team back on top, 2-1, one batter into the seventh.
With two Ks in the eighth, Scherzer reached double digits in strikeouts for the eighth time in his last nine outings, but a two-out walk and single pushed him up to 120 pitches total and ended his night.
Oliver Perez came on and gave up a two-run single that drove in the two runners he inherited from the Nationals’ starter.
Max Scherzer’s Line: 7.2 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 10 Ks, 1 HR, 120 P, 85 S, 8/1 GO/FO.
After the Nats rallied in the ninth, and walked off on the Braves in the tenth, Baker was asked about the decision to leave Scherzer in to face Inciarte with his pitch count climbing and Oliver Perez warming in the pen for a potential lefty vs lefty matchup.
“He said he was good,” Baker told reporters. “We asked him before the inning and if he says he’s good prior to the inning you hate to go out and get him, like that.
“And so you’ve got to give your ace a chance to win, and sometimes your ace gets a loss, but the fact that he’s your ace, and he’s in the game late, and we were debating and we asked Max and Max if he says he has some more, especially this is his last game prior to the break, probably would have been different if he was going to pitch five days from now, so it was Max’s game, just like in Florida, it was Max’s game, cause like I said, who can you bring in out of the bullpen that’s better than Max?”
Scherzer ended the night, and the first half, with a 2.10 ERA, a 27 walks (1.89 BB/9), 173 Ks (12.13 K/9), and a .162/.224/.290 line against in 128 1⁄3 IP.
After throwing 120 pitches total on the night, Scherzer was asked if his arm will be ready to take the ball in the All-Star Game if he’s called on to start?
“It could,” Scherzer said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.
“You just gotta come in tomorrow and see how it feels. I think I’ve had a couple lighter loads (my) past two (starts), so it allowed me to be strong in this start. So it’s one of those things, you gotta wait and see.”