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Max Scherzer talking to Patrick Ewing about Bryce Harper? Yes, please...

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Washington Nationals’ ace Max Scherzer talked to Georgetown legend Patrick Ewing about Bryce Harper, trying to keep improving in 2019 + more...

MLB: Spring Training-New York Yankees at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Max Scherzer and Patrick Ewing are fast friends. Washington’s ace apparently works out and plays pickup basketball at Georgetown with Ewing, the 7’1’’ Hoyas’ legend. It’s true. Look, we found pictures on Twitter. Scherzer and the former NCAA and NBA star, who’s now serving as the head coach for his alma mater, talked for an interview on Ewing’s show Center Count with Patrick Ewing on Sirius/XM’s ESPNU Radio on Tuesday.

Scherzer’s preparing for his Opening Day start on Thursday, his fourth opener in his first five seasons in D.C.

Coming off a 2018 campaign which saw him go (18-7) in 33 starts with a 2.53 ERA, 2.65 FIP, 51 walks (2.08 BB/9), 300 Ks (12.24 K/9), and a .188/.247/.332 line against in 220 2⁄3 innings pitched, over which he was worth a career-high 7.2 fWAR, Scherzer is, of course, focused on improving, which will be ... hard to do, honestly.

Scherzer, 34, ended up leading all National League starters in strikeouts, K/9, K/BB (5.88), WHIP (0.911), opponents’ batting AVG, innings pitched, and wins, he finished second in opponents’ OBP and fWAR, and ended up third in ERA, ERA+ (168), opponents’ AVG with RISP (.153), and opponents’ OPS and SLG. He finished second in the voting for the 2018 NL Cy Young award, however, (to New York Mets’ ace Jacob deGrom, who is starting opposite Scherzer on Opening Day), snapping a streak of back-to-back NL Cy Youngs.

So what did Scherzer tell Ewing about his goals for the 2019 campaign?

“I have two goals,” he explained. “One, and that’s win the World Series. That’s the strongest motivator to get you up in the morning no matter what, to go out there and just put in the work and do your job, is to win the World Series. Number two is just to be a better pitcher. Find a way, find something in my game, within my pitches, and find a way to get better. I can’t control the results, the results will just happen. I’m more focused in the process of what I’ve got to do in-between starts to be consistent and be durable.

“And for me, if I go out there and take care of that and put all my focus and energy into just getting better at what I’m able to do with the baseball, I feel like everything else takes care of itself.”

Scherzer was, of course, also asked about the departure of Bryce Harper, the 26-year-old slugger, who signed a 13-year/$330M deal with the Philadelphia Phillies this winter and is set to play against the Nationals next week after seven seasons in the nation’s capital.

“He’s a tremendous bat and obviously it’s tough to replace him,” Scherzer said, “but you can do it through multiple facets, and I think that’s what our ownership and front office wanted to do this offseason. Try to find ways to make our team better even if we were to lose Bryce.

“Obviously that’s the case that happened, but [the front office] went out there, they went out and signed guys, went out to trade for guys in a lot of ways to kind of shore up some holes. We have some young exciting outfielders as well in Victor Robles and Juan Soto that should really be really exciting for the fans to watch as well.

“So we have a good team going forward, but to face Bryce, that’s going to be fun. That’s who you measure yourself against. You don’t measure yourself against the worst, you measure yourself against the best, and he’s obviously one of the best hitters that we’ll face this year in the N.L. and so it’ll be fun to face him a bunch.”

All the Scherzer vs Harper talk reminded me what Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo said when he was asked (after Harper signed), if he was looking forward to must-see matchups on the days that the two former teammates line up.

“Bryce is must-see TV every time he comes to the plate with us,” Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies, “and Max is must-see TV every time he pitches, so against each other, it’s going to be crazy. I can’t wait for that. I know the media loves to talk about the Bryce thing, but this division is going to be fun to play, and we respect all those teams. We fear none of them, and our job is to win the division and go deep into the playoffs. Our expectations haven’t changed in the last eight years, and we’re going to continue to plug away to win a championship.”

Before Scherzer vs Harper though, it’s Scherzer vs deGrom on Thursday afternoon, which is, well you really can’t ask for a better Opening Day matchup, can you? And while we wait for that, we’ve got Scherzer & Ewing...

[ed. note - “We’ll share the audio if/when it’s posted online, but you’ll have to settle for some quotes from the interview for now.”]