Max Scherzer started in the NL Wild Card Game, a do-or-die matchup with Milwaukee, and he threw a scoreless inning in relief in Game 2 of the NLDS with Los Angeles, before taking the mound in Game 4 against the Dodgers with the season on the line. He warmed up late in Game 5 in Dodger Stadium in case he was needed, but didn’t have to pitch, so heading into this afternoon’s outing in Game 2 of the NLCS he was happy that he could get back to starting without having to worry about whether he’ll be needed in relief at some point.
“Yeah, being in the previous postseasons where that happens in the five-game series,” the 35-year-old, 12-year veteran told reporters in his pre-start press conference on Friday in St. Louis, “you got to get creative and you got to take the ball at every single chance you can get.
“In the seven-game series, the way you’re set up, this is more like the regular season. You can’t be coming out of the pen in the same form or fashion unless you’re not going to be making your start. So for me it’s probably just pitch Game 2 and then wait for my next start.”
Informed of his Game 2 starter’s comments about getting back to working solely as one of the Nationals’ starters, Nats’ skipper joked with reporters, “So what he’s saying is he doesn’t want to pitch in the bullpen?”
“No, yeah, I agree,” Martinez continued.
“We got to get these guys ready to start their game, especially the first couple games here.
“After that anything can happen. But I’m excited that he’s going to pitch Game 2, so let’s get him ready for Game 2.”
Scherzer faced the Cards twice in the regular season, giving up eight hits, two walks, and three earned runs in seven innings at home in a 5-1 loss on May 1st, and allowing five runs on seven hits in 6 1⁄3 IP on September 18th in Busch Stadium.
Asked if he went back and watched those outings, Scherzer said he did, though there’s only so much he could take from the previous starts.
“You take a look at it, you know what’s going on, it’s fresh in my mind of what pitches they can hit,” he explained. “and watching that series of how they handled the bat, and how to navigate their lineup, it’s going to be a tough fight, I know that.
“At the same time,” he added, “... this is the Postseason, this is the NLCS, you can almost, in some regards, almost throw it out the window because everybody’s playing at a higher level. I can sit here and say that, like, I knew the Brewers’ lineup but the Brewers came out with a whole different approach and like that was a completely different team. So there’s something to it but there’s not a lot to it.”
Scherzer has been something of a different pitcher in the Postseason as well, now that he’s back closer to 100% after working his way back following two stints on the Injured List back in July/August, and his fastball has ticked up in his first three outings in October, which he said is partly due to the atmosphere and also result of getting back to full strength.
“Yeah, it’s just adrenaline in the moment, especially Wild Card, when it’s a do or die it’s literally every pitch you got one game to decide everything going into it,” Scherzer said.
“And I was on seven days’ rest going into that. So, yeah, that’s just the product of playing in the Postseason sometimes. So I feel healthy, feel great, really recovered off of these injuries that I had in the middle of the year and made the progression back kind of all the way through September to get to this point where I really feel good about myself and what I can do with the baseball.”
While the adrenaline and the emotions can provide a boost, Scherzer was asked if he needs to keep it in check to help deal with the Nationals go deeper into a season than they’ve ever been before?
“No, we play the game with emotions,” he said.
“We play with fun. We have a -- our clubhouse is great. We embrace it, we love it. I think what you’re trying to get to is not get emotional, that we got, where you get out of hand and you’re living in the past. No, we’re focused on the future here, what we can do. We realize the opponent that we’re facing in the Cardinals and that they’re a tough team and they just got through a tough series as well. And this is the playoffs, anything can happen. So it’s going to be a fun matchup. This is baseball at its finest.”