Max Scherzer was excited about getting to make one more start after he’d reached 300 Ks on the season last time out on the mound in his 33rd outing of the 2018 campaign.
The decision was made that if the game meant something, the Washington Nationals would send their ace out to the mound in Coors Field for the regular season finale.
“If there’s an elimination game on the line here against the Rockies, they want me to pitch,” Scherzer told reporters earlier this weekend, as quoted by MLB.com’s Jamal Collier.
“And for me the way I look at it, if there’s a playoff atmosphere on the line where somebody can get knocked out, that’s a heck of an environment to pitch in.
”Even though we’re playing for nothing, at least we can be able to toe the rubber knowing that the atmosphere here with the crowd and the other team would be playing at probably the highest level of any point I would face this year. Why wouldn’t I want to compete in that?”
“I want to pitch,” Scherzer added. “But I also respect the decision if the Nationals decide they want to go in a different direction.”
The Rockies’ win in Friday night’s series opener guaranteed a postseason berth, but the loss on Saturday, in a 12-2 blowout, left them tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers after 161 games.
Since they were guaranteed a spot in the playoffs, however, the Nats did, in fact, decide to go in a different direction.
“We talked before the game and we’re actually going to start [Erick] Fedde,” Davey Martinez explained.
“It was a decision between myself, [GM Mike] Rizzo, and Max,” he said, “and I really feel, you know, hey Max did his job, he threw 220 [2⁄3] innings, and if anybody knows Max, he gives it all he’s got every time he goes out, so I wanted to make sure that he finished up the way he did, has a healthy winter and comes back ready for 2019.
“I understand the integrity of the game, but both teams are in it, so I’ve got to take care of my player, and Max.”
And how did Max take the news?
“He was okay. Like I said, that last game he pitched, he got his 300th strikeout and he left it all out there, and we asked him if it meant a team being knocked out or being eliminated and he said, ‘Absolutely,’ and then today with both teams being in the playoffs, we sat down and told him it was enough.”
“I was mentally ready to pitch, but I completely understand where Rizzo was coming from with this decision,” Scherzer told reporters, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.
“I said from the beginning that this was his call, because of the nature of the beast that we’re playing for nothing. So at the end of the day, he felt this was the best thing to do for the Washington Nationals, and that’s all there really is to say.”
“Like I said, he’s at 220 [2⁄3] innings,” Martinez said.
“He’s been in the postseason now for years and pitched, so he needs a break too, he does.
“We talked to him before the game and we just decided that it would be best that he doesn’t pitch.”