Max Scherzer made his third career pinch hit appearance in the 14th inning of Saturday afternoon’s matchup with the Atlanta Braves in SunTrust Park. Seven innings after rookie Juan Soto hit a solo home run to tie things up at 3-3, Scherzer stepped in against Braves’ reliever Miguel Socolovich and hit a high 1-0 pitch to center field for a one-out single.
Scherzer was still at first base one out later when Wilmer Difo hit a liner to right-center field, and the Nationals’ ace sprinted around the bases while the Braves bungled the relay throw, allowing the go-ahead run to score, 4-3.
Washington added a run on an RBI single by Spencer Kieboom and took the third of four in Atlanta this weekend after dropping the first two games of the series.
Scherzer’s trip around the bases had Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez holding his breath.
Luckily there wasn’t a play at the plate, but Martinez’s anxiety began as soon as Scherzer hit the single.
“It looked like he was going to try to steal as well,” Martinez said, “... and I was like, ‘Oh boy!’ and then all of a sudden he goes first to home and I’m holding my breath, but he was flying.
“I said, ‘You can run.’ He said, ‘I can do it all.’ So, kudos to him. I mean he picked us up, he really did.”
Pedro Severino was the only position player left on the bench at that point, but Scherzer was ready for the opportunity because the Nationals’ skipper told him he might need to take an at bat.
“About the ninth inning I told him,” Martinez said. “I said, ‘Hey, you might want to put your cleats on, you’re probably going to get into this game if it gets going a little bit and gets to extra innings,’ and he was all in.
“It don’t take him much. So, he was excited, he’s still excited.”
“They came to me a couple innings before,” Scherzer said on MASN’s post game broadcast.
“Once I think [Brian] Goodwin pinch hit, they said, ‘Go get your cleats on because you’re the next guy in the game,’ and they double-switched, so I knew like it was going to take a couple innings to get there, so I was just in the cage getting loose, running, and hitting and just waiting for an opportunity.”
How did he prepare for the opportunity?
“Just my normal like pregame — what I would do for a start, tee work, did some BP, enough to get it out there. I haven’t been in a game in a couple weeks, so I was just trying to — just get out there and get a fastball and just try to hit a fastball.”
“Max is just a baseball player, he really is,” Martinez added.
“He’s a student of the game, he pays attention, he’s analyzing sitting there, we’re talking, and I told him, I said, ‘Hey, no matter what you’re hitting, whether you’re going to go up there and bunt, or there’s one out, you’re going to hit, so do your thing. And he was all in, that’s who he is, so he got us going. It was a big moment.”
Where does the moment rank in Scherzer’s long list of career achievements?
“This one goes way up there, man,” Scherzer said. “This is what I dream of, of just being able to be a ballplayer and go out there and find a way to help the team win. For me, hitting, just it’s all secondary, it’s just icing on the cake, so anything I can go out there and do, especially here in extra innings, to be a part of a game-winning situation, it’s just awesome.”