Max Scherzer took a comebacker off his right ankle in his start against the Pittsburgh Pirates in D.C. back on April 14th, but he took the mound for his next turn in the rotation, against the Miami Marlins, and gave up 11 hits and seven runs, six earned, in 5 1⁄3 innings in Florida.
In his weekly visit with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies this week, Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo acknowledged that the 34-year-old ace obviously wasn’t at his best against the Fish.
“Max had that contusion on his shin bone,” Rizzo said, “then he’s got this little muscle thing on his side. He hasn’t been the Max Scherzer of the last eight years.”
The “little muscle thing” was the result of a foul ball that went into the Nationals’ dugout in the series finale in Miami last Sunday.
Scherzer was able to throw between starts, however, and he said he was happy it wasn’t any worse.
“That ball was hit over 100 miles an hour right at my head, I’m just lucky I still have one blue eye,” he joked, “... so for me, just getting out of the way and the fact that this is what I’m having to deal with as a result of a ball being hit directly at my head, I’ll take it every time.”
As for his struggles on the mound against the Marlins?
“Just the location was off,” Scherzer said, as quoted by MLB.com’s Manny Randhawa.
“Where I was trying to get the ball to certain areas, I just wasn’t, and I was missing over the middle of the plate and missing up. I don’t think anything’s necessarily broken, I’ve just got to solve this little arm-action fix I can do, and I think that gets me on top of the ball a little bit better and I can execute my offspeed a little bit better.”
“It was just location,” manager Davey Martinez said.
“He left too many balls up and out over the plate, and when you do that, you’ve got big league hitters, and he just — tonight just wasn’t his night. He said he felt good, but his location was not good today.”
Looking to bounce back from that outing, Scherzer took the mound against the San Diego Padres on Friday night in the nation’s capital and retired the first 13 batters, striking out six, before a 2-0 fastball to Eric Hosmer ended up sailing out to right field for a solo home run that got the visitors on the board, down 2-1 in the fifth.
Scherzer struck out the side in the sixth, picking up the 2,500th strikeout of his career in the process and his 7th, 8th, and 9th Ks overall on the night, from 19 batters.
Wil Myers doubled to start the seventh, however, and scored from second on an RBI single by Manny Machado that tied things up at 2-2.
Scherzer was up to 101 pitches total after seven, with a strikeout/back pick double play to end the top of the inning, and his spot in the order came up in the bottom of the seventh.
Max Scherzer’s Line: 7.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 10 Ks, 1 HR, 101 P, 69 S, 5/3 GO/FO.
Another rough eighth inning for the bullpen put the Nationals behind again, 3-2, but they tied it up in the bottom of the inning on Carter Kieboom’s first MLB hit, a solo home run, only to have Sean Doolittle give up his first home run since June 19, 2018 in what ended up a 4-3 loss.
Scherzer told reporters after the game that he thought he’d straightened things out after the rough outing in Miami.
“I shortened up my arm action just a little bit,” he explained, “and when I’m in a better slot, it allows me to really work through the ball a lot better. It affects every pitch, and that’s where I really felt like I was able to throw a good slider tonight, and didn’t really throw too many hanging sliders, and so that was the good thing that I was able to do over the last couple days, make that little fix, tweak it and just go forward.”
“Today his slider was the best I’ve seen him throw it all year,” Scherzer’s manager said after the game.
“Like I said, he kept us in the ballgame. He pitched well. Congrats to him on getting 2,500 strikeouts, we just couldn’t get nothing going really with the bats today, but we battled. We battled to the end, we got an opportunity, and we fell short.”
Scherzer acknowledged the crowd’s cheers after his milestone strikeout, which made him the 35th pitcher in MLB history to reach that plateau, and the third fastest to reach it, with only Nolan Ryan (338th start) and Randy Johnson (in his 313th) getting there quicker than Scherzer, who reached the mark in his 344th.
“It’s really cool,” Scherzer said of the milestone. “But it’s stuff that you’ll think about in the offseason a little bit more than you will now. Right now you’re just caught up in the day-by-day going through the season, but it’s a cool milestone to reach.”
And the ovation, which he seemed to acknowledge so he could keep going with the start?
Did he appreciate the moment, or just want to move on with the at bat that followed the K?
“A little of both,” Scherzer acknowledged. “We’re in a tight ballgame right there, and it was a 2-1 game, and it wasn’t something that was on my mind. Obviously when I got it and I could hear the crowd I think I knew what was going on, but it’s a cool moment, especially when the fans appreciate it, you definitely appreciate it, and when they’re all standing for you, you’ve got to take a second to acknowledge the fans, because the fans are what drive this game, and I definitely am appreciative of their support.”