Milwaukee Brewers’ manager Craig Counsell sent a left-hand heavy lineup out against Max Scherzer in the third game of four with the Washington Nationals in Miller Park.
Eight of nine Brewers’ batters were left-handed or switch hitters. Counsell was likely hoping to take advantage of the fact that left-hand hitters (.219/.300/.411, 16 home runs in 333 plate appearances) had “much” better luck than right-hand hitters (.126/.172/.225, six home runs, 310 PAs) against the defending NL Cy Young winner this season.
No one had much success against Scherzer in recent weeks, however.
He took the mound last night unbeaten in his last ten starts at (5-0) with a 2.41 ERA, 17 walks (2.56 BB/9), 85 Ks (12.82 K/9), and a .183/.250/.362 line against in 59 2⁄3 IP over that stretch.
Those lefties in the Brewers’ lineup who had faced Scherzer before started the game a combined 14 for 52 (.269 AVG) against him.
Scherzer retired the first nine batters he faced as the Nationals jumped out to a 1-0 lead over rookie right-hander Brandon Woodruff, but Brewers’ infielder Eric Sogard sent a single to center to end the nascent no-hit bid in the fourth, and Eric Thames doubled to right field to drive in the tying run on an 0-1 fastball in the next at bat.
Travis Shaw hit a comebacker off Scherzer’s back/left leg in the first, however, and the right-hander looked uncomfortable in the fourth, bringing Nationals’ manager Dusty Baker, pitching coach Mike Maddux, and Nats’ trainer Paul Lessard to the mound for a visit, but he stayed in, and remained in even after he looked like he was unable to run when he grounded out to end the Nationals’ half of the fifth.
Scherzer finished the bottom of the fifth inning, working around a walk, but he didn’t come back out for the sixth.
Max Scherzer’s Line: 5.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 Ks, 75 P, 44 S, 5/2 GO/FO.
Milwaukee took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the sixth, but Washington rallied for two runs in the top of the eighth and took the third game of four in Miller Park.
Baker talked after the game about the decision to lift Scherzer when they did and the extent of the damage, which both he and the starter said was minimal.
“Max got hit in the calf, in his left calf,” Baker said, “and then it got tighter, and tighter, and tighter, and he was trying to talk us into leaving him in the game, and we thought that was as far as he could go because we didn’t know if he could cover first base or back up a base. We thought they were going to bunt on him. So we were trying to make some arrangements for other people to change their assignments on a bunt or something, and so we thought that was far enough and we turned it over to our bullpen.”
“It just hit the calf and that’s one of the worst spots to get hit no matter how hard or soft it is,” Scherzer said.
“It was just one of those things that it was tightening up, tightened there in the second and was basically at the same level of tightness all the way through.”
“It hit him in the muscle,” Baker added, “so I’m sure it’s going to be sore for a couple days. He’s icing it. We think he’ll be alright.”
“It was something where I could pitch on it, but I couldn’t run,” Scherzer explained.
“It was a combination,” Baker said. “Running on it No. 1, and No. 2 you didn’t want him to land or try to change/alter his delivery and end up doing something to his arm so we thought that was far enough.”
“I could feel in my mechanics that I was still getting through the ball,” Scherzer said, “so I knew I wasn’t in danger of hurting my arm. It was just one of those things that I wanted to be out there and compete. So competed as long as I could and there in the sixth they had a bunch of lefties coming up, Mad Dog asked me if I could run or if I could cover first strong, and I told him, ‘No,’ and that’s when they made the decision to pull, cause they were really worried that a ball on the right side they could get a cheap hit that way, so I understood where they were coming from.
“Just one of those things, hey, took one, pitched as long as I could, fortunately it’s just a muscle, we’ve got patches, these patches are miracles, so this should be pretty good pretty soon.”