Max Scherzer struck out nine of the 17 batters he faced in a 76-pitch Grapefruit League effort in what ended up a 7-4 Washington Nationals’ win over the New York Mets in West Palm Beach, Florida’s FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.
Mad Max vs the Mets: Sure, Max Scherzer’s won back-to-back NL Cy Young awards, while leading the NL in strikeouts in each of the least two seasons, and posting a 2.75 ERA, 3.08 FIP, and 11.58 K/9 over 65 games and 429 innings during the last two campaigns, but that doesn’t mean the right-hander is done evolving as a pitcher.
“You always have to reinvent yourself and always keep evolving as a pitcher,” Scherzer told reporters after his third Grapefruit League start of 2018 last week.
“Every single year you have to come up with new ways to get guys out,” he said, “because everybody’s game plan against you, looking at everything little thing you do, coming up with every little pattern that you throw, and with the data they have now, the line between good and bad is shrinking every single year, so you constantly have to be keeping up and [trying] to keep evolving and be ahead of the hitters, come up with new pitches and new ways to attack guys so that you’re always one step ahead.”
Scherzer was sharp in the first tonight, in start No. 4 of the Spring, throwing a slider outside by Amed Rosario and a 97 mph fastball up high by Asdrubal Cabrera for the second and third outs of a quick, 14-pitch, 1-2-3 opening frame.
Max Scherzer's evening is done.— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) March 14, 2018
5 IP // 1 H // 0 ER // 1 BB // 9 K pic.twitter.com/Ag21kt8QDl
Todd Frazier went down swinging in a three-pitch at bat in the second, chasing another brutal slider from Scherzer. Wilmer Flores fell behind, 0-2, and chased 95 up high. Kevin Plawecki got to a 2-2 count before he lined out to short to end a 13-pitch second.
Scherzer dropped an 85 mph 2-2 change(?) under Matt den Dekker’s bat for K No. 5 on the night in the first at bat of the Mets’ third. Kevin Kaczmarski fell behind 0-2 (after trying to break up Scherzer’s Spring no-hitter with a bunt) and got to 2-2 before grounding out to second for the eighth-straight out to start the game. Mets’ DH Patrick Mazeika fell behind 0-2 as well, swinging through fastballs, and Scherzer got help from Victor Robles on an over-the-shoulder catch on a liner to center for out No. 9 on Scherzer’s 41st pitch.
Juan Lagares was down 0-2 two pitches into the fourth, and he fouled off a few pitches before taking a 95 mph heater knee-high outside for a called third strike. K No. 6. Amed Rosario was first-pitch swinging and he doubled to center (Smart, Amed!) for the Mets’ first hit, then Asdrubal Cabrera sent out No. 2 to center on a 1-0 pitch, and Todd Frazier worked the count full and spit on a 3-2 slider to take the first walk of the game.
Wilmer Flores stepped in with two out and runners on the corners, (after Rosario took third base with Frazier up on a throwing error by Wieters), but fell behind 1-2 and K’d looking at a big bender on Scherzer’s 62nd pitch.
Scherzer got up 0-2 on Kevin Plawecki in the first at bat of the fifth and after fouling off two pitches, took an 85 mph change for a called strike three and K No. 8.
Matt den Dekker was down 0-2 quickly as well, and after he spit on a breaking ball, he K’d swinging over a slider in under the hands. K No. 9. Kevin Kaczmarski lined out to short on a 1-2 fastball on Scherzer’s 76th (and final) pitch.
Max Scherzer’s Line: 5.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 9 Ks, 76 P, 1/3 GO/FO.
The Track Nats are back: Trea Turner and Bryce Harper took back-to-back, one-out walks from Mets’ right-hander Zack Wheeler in the home-half of the first inning. Turner stole second with Harper up, before Harp walked, and they pulled a double steal with Anthony Rendon at the plate to put two runners in scoring position for the third baseman, who lined out, deep enough to right to advance both runners, 1-0 Nationals.
Brian Goodwin stepped in next and hit Wheeler’s 26th pitch of the first to center for a two-out RBI single and a 2-0 lead. Matt Wieters followed with a single to right, and Victor Robles hit a two-out RBI liner to center to bring Goodwin in, 3-0. Wheeler threw 31 pitches total in the first.
Moar Hahpa: Harper singled to left-center to start the Nationals’ third, took second (and slipped rounding the bag, but was fine) on a single by Rendon, took third base on a force at second on a Goodwin grounder, and scored on a liner to center by Wieters, 4-0.
Jose Marmolejos drove Goodwin in with an opposite field, two-out single, 5-0, on pitch No. 60 from Wheeler.
Bullpen Time: Chris Smith needed just 11 to get through a quick, 1-2-3 sixth.
Turner/Harper: Trea Turner walked with two down (his second free pass of the game and sixth walk of the Spring) and took third on a ground-rule double to left by Bryce Harper, then scored on a two-run double to right by Andrew Stevenson, 7-0 Nats.
More Bullpen Time: Ryan Madson gave up back-to-back-to-back two-out singles, with the third a grounder to first base by Matt den Dekker on which the runner beat the reliever to the bag as a run scored, 7-1 Nats, and two runs scored on a blooper to left field that fell in for the fourth consecutive hit, 7-3. 24-pitch frame for Madson in the end.
Joaquin Benoit gave up a long fly to left field by Amed Rosario that cleared the fence for a solo shot that made it a 7-4 game in the Nationals’ favor in the eighth.
Tim Collins took the mound in the ninth and worked around a one-out walk for a scoreless frame.
Final Score: 7-4 Nationals.