Max Scherzer took the mound on Sunday afternoon winless in his last three starts in spite of the fact that he’d put up a 2.00 ERA with seven walks, 23 strikeouts, and a .246/.316/.362 line against over 18 innings pitched in those outings, the last of which was a six-inning start in which he’d allowed just one run on seven hits in what ended up a 3-2 loss to Miami in which he received no decision.
Scherzer was limited to six innings and 103 pitches in that outing by a Marlins’ lineup that fouled off pitches, got his pitch count up, and got him out relatively early.
“I was able to pound the zone, threw a ton of strikes,” Scherzer said after facing the Fish, “... they did a great job of grinding me and just fouling balls up and running the pitch count up, and just making me work.”
That outing left Scherzer (2-5) on the season with a 3.26 ERA, an NL-best 2.33 FIP, 17 walks (1.98 BB/9), and 102 Ks (11.87 K/9) in 12 starts and 77 1⁄3 IP, with the Nats 2-10 in his outings, which Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez said before today’s game was an anomaly.
“It’s an anomaly in baseball,” Martinez explained, as quoted by MASN’s Byron Kerr, when asked about Scherzer’s wins and losses through 12 turns in the rotation.
“One thing I know about Scherzer, he goes out there and competes every outing, so I’m 100 percent guaranteed that’s what he’s going to do today, is go out there and compete, and do everything he can to win.”
Scherzer gave up a run on back-to-back doubles in the first two at bats of the Reds’ fourth, but held Cincinnati to that one run through sixth, striking out 12 of 22 batters faced on 94 pitches in the series finale in Great American Ball Park.
Max Scherzer, Filthy 85mph Changeup....and Flying Sword. ⚔️ pic.twitter.com/s4zNDO5QI5— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 2, 2019
A 10-pitch, 1-2-3 seventh, in which he picked up his 13th K (from 25 batters) left Scherzer at 104 pitches overall on the day, and he had retired 10-straight and 13 of 14 after the second of the two doubles he allowed in the fourth.
Scherzer came back out for the eighth with a 4-1 lead, and gave up a leadoff double by Tucker Barnhart, but he popped José Peraza up and struck Nick Senzel out on his 117th pitch of the game.
Before Joey Votto stepped in with a runner on second and two out, Scherzer received a visit on the mound, but he told his manager, clearly, that he was good to keep going and wanted to stay in the game.
Max Scherzer, Refusing to Leave (after 117 pitches/14th K). pic.twitter.com/ToXqxymgrl— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 2, 2019
An 0-2 fastball got Votto swinging for out No. 3 of the Reds’ eighth and K No. 15 from 29 batters faced) and the 16-pitch frame left him at 120 pitches overall.
Max Scherzer’s Line: 8.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 15 Ks, 120 P, 84 S, 1/5 GO/FO.
Sean Doolittle closed out the ninth and the Nationals took 2 of 3 from the Reds and also got Scherzer a win.
In a fastball-heavy outing (50% of his pitches), Scherzer generated 26 swinging strikes and got 19 called strikes on Reds’ hitters in a dominant outing.
“I just felt really good on the mound,” Scherzer told reporters after the 4-1 win.
“Really cleaned up my mechanics. Got the posture in my mechanics kind of ironed out. Kind of had that last start against the Marlins where I was really pounding the zone and then really focused on my changeup, made a little tweak on my changeup, really thought I was able to get that dialed in to where I could execute it down in the zone or below the zone, and was able to use that pitch and with their lefties in, was able to throw a good curveball today, and then just worked with [catcher Kurt Suzuki] and where we needed to throw the fastball we were in rhythm and sync, and we were able to get a win today.”
Max Scherzer's dominance in 15 pitches:— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) June 2, 2019
1st inning - strikeout
2nd inning - 2 strikeouts
3rd inning - 3 strikeouts
4th inning - strikeout
5th inning - 2 strikeouts
6th inning - 3 strikeouts
7th inning - strikeout
8th inning - 2 strikeouts#Scherzday // #OnePursuit pic.twitter.com/3w0UrroFgs
Scherzer got seven swinging strikes with his changeup, second only to the nine he got with his fastball.
Was there any discussion about sending him back out for the eighth, before the animated discussion during the inning?
“I knew I was strong,” Scherzer said.
“I knew with the schedule — I had an off day the previous time, I’m coming up on another off day, my arm felt great, even in the eighth, and so I knew I had plenty in the tank to keep pitching, and I just wanted the ball in that situation, I know myself and I wanted the ball.”
“There was no denying he was going back out in the eighth, that’s for sure,” Martinez said, as quoted by MASN’s Byron Kerr.
“He was very adamant about it and just by watching him he really didn’t have many stressful innings. He pretty much dominated today. For me when you are that No. 1 guy, that’s what you are going to get.”
And the discussion on the mound before Votto’s at bat?
“I got to hear it from him,” Martinez said. “He’s got a lot of pitches and I just want to hear it from him. We kind of exchanged some non-professional words, but it was good to hear he wanted to battle.”
What ... did Scherzer say? “I’d rather not say,” Martinez joked, “but I love it.”