Max Scherzer’s start in Atlanta the last time out before Thursday night was his shortest of the 2018 campaign, a four-inning, 102-pitch outing in which he gave up seven hits, three walks, and six runs, all of them earned, in what ended up a 10-5 loss.
“Max wasn’t Max tonight,” Davey Martinez said after the game.
“He threw 100 pitches in four innings, that’s not who he is. He tried to keep us in the game ... but just he wasn’t himself.”
“I never felt like I had great command of any of the pitches,” Scherzer said, as quoted by MLB.com’s Jamal Collier.
“I was pitching out of the stretch, and I never felt like I could really get in sync with my timing, rhythm, mechanics, you name it.”
Max Scherzer, Unhittable 88mph Slider. pic.twitter.com/6NBGNYVsA8— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 21, 2018
Martinez told reporters before the series opener with New York in the nation’s capital that he thought Scherzer would rebound from the rough outing in Atlanta and his tough month of September so far, which had seen the back-to-back, defending NL Cy Young winner put up a 5.40 ERA, four walks, 28 Ks, and a .260/.306/.377 line against in three starts and 20 IP.
“Max will go out there and be Max,” Martinez said.
“I think he’ll be fine. He’ll bounce back and just got to go out there and just compete like he always does and I’m looking forward to watching him go out there.”
Scherzer fell behind early, giving up opposite field blasts in back-to-back at bats with two out in the third, on a 1-0 fastball outside that Michael Conforto powered out the other way for a two-run blast to left field and a 1-2 fastball to Jay Bruce up high outside that went out to left-center, 3-0.
While still behind 3-0 in the fifth, Scherzer picked up his 285th strikeout of the 2018 season, besting his own record and the Nationals’ franchise record, set in 2016, then he added two more for 287 total on the season and 10 on the night from 21 batters.
With a K in the sixth, and two more in the seventh, Scherzer was up to 13 on the night and 290 total on the season, but that was it for the right-hander in what ended up a 5-4 loss in extra innings.
Max Scherzer using the Jedi Mind Trick on HP Umpire D. J. Reyburn to get his 13th K. pic.twitter.com/3Vm9i9lH6e— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 21, 2018
Max Scherzer’s Line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 13 Ks, 2 HRs, 104 P, 76 S, 3/3 GO/FO.
So what did Martinez see?
“Two bad pitches, that’s what I saw,” the manager said. “Other than that he was really good. He battled. Congratulations to him,  strikeouts, that’s pretty impressive and now he’s got a couple more outings to get that 300, so but he battled. You saw Max be Max, just two bad pitches.”
Scherzer was asked how aware he was of the fact that he was close to 300 strikeouts, which would make him the 17th different pitcher since 1900 and just the fifth different pitcher since 2000 to record a 300+ K season.
“I mean, you’re aware of it, but that’s not why you go out there and pitch,” Scherzer said.
“You go out there to pitch and win. I wanted to come in today and win a ballgame and unfortunately we lost. So you always think about the things that you weren’t able to do to help your team win, so for me those are milestones and I don’t pitch for those, I pitch to win.”