Max Scherzer helped his own cause early in tonight’s matchup with the Miami Marlins, hitting his first career home run out to left field in Marlins Park off Chris O’Grady... and it was a three-run blast that made it 4-0 Washington in the second.
He took the mound in the bottom of the second up 6-0 after Howie Kendrick added a two-run blast later in the top of the inning.
Scherzer began to warm up for the Marlins’ half of the inning, and threw one warm-up pitch, which bounced on the way to the plate and was well-wide of the target, then he signaled to the dugout that he was done, making a throat-cutting, “I’m done,” motion.
He walked off the field and was replaced on the mound by Matt Grace.
In a rare exception to their policy of not making injury announcements during games, the Nationals informed reporters in the press box in Miami that Scherzer was dealing with neck spasms after he tweaked something sleeping a few days back.
The Nationals’ 6-0 lead vanished over the next few innings as the Marlins rallied for a run in the third, two in the fourth, and four in the fifth to go up 7-6 and their bullpen held the visiting team off the board the rest of the way.
Nats’ skipper Dusty Baker updated reporters on Scherzer’s health after the loss.
“Max is — he’s doing fine,” Baker said. “We’ll get a better idea tomorrow. He slept on his neck wrong a couple days ago, and they had been working on it and then it spasmed back again in the second inning. At least it wasn’t his arm. And that’s what we were worried about. So that was good news.”
“You hate to lose Max and you knew it had to be something or else he’s not going to come out of a game where we get six runs and he hits his first homer too. We couldn’t hold them, they kind of slow-walked on us and then their bullpen shut us down. It’s rare where both starters come out and we don’t get any more, but their bullpen did a great job against us tonight.”
Baker said the Nationals weren’t monitoring Scherzer closely, “... cause it had subsided.”
“He looked fine in the inning he went out there and he looked fine when he was hitting, so you just don’t know when that’s going to rear its ugly head again.”
As soon as Scherzer threw that one warmup pitch wide, and walked off the mound, it was clear that something was not right.
“Yeah, cause he just walked off, he didn’t wait for us to get there,” Baker explained.
“Like I said, Paul Lessard, our trainer, came over and said that they had been working on him and it had subsided.
“But when you pop your neck swinging and throwing, then when he threw that ball wild you knew something was wrong, and then when he walked out — like I said, we’re just glad it wasn’t his arm, cause his arm has been feeling great.”
“I’m alright,” Scherzer told reporters after the Nats’ loss. “I slept on my neck wrong a couple days ago, and we got here to Miami and we’ve been treating it the past couple days. I’ve had this pop up before.”
Baker didn’t think there would be any need for tests on the defending NL Cy Young award winner, who took the mound with a six-start unbeaten streak over which he’d gone (4-0) with a 2.63 ERA, 12 walks, 56 Ks, and a .176/.248/.360 line against in 37 2⁄3 innings pitched.
“We’ve all had a stiff neck that you slept on wrong,” he said, “and so I don’t think he’ll undergo any tests or anything.”