In his third outing back following his second Injured List stint of the season, Max Scherzer went up to 90 pitches in six innings, giving up five hits and four runs in what ended up an 11-10 win over the New York Mets in the nation’s capital.
Scherzer told reporters after the outing that it was the first start in which he was really able to go 100% as he builds back up after missing time on the Injured scapulothoracic bursitis and a mild rhomboid strain.
“This start, I was able to start throwing pitches at 100 percent,” Scherzer said, as quoted by MASN writer Byron Kerr.
“Start letting it eat. Really started throwing some fastballs and really stepping on some fastballs, and stepping on some off-speed pitches as well. So for me, that was picking up the intensity on a per pitch basis, was definitely higher tonight than it was in the past two starts.”
“The training wheels will be off Max now,” GM Mike Rizzo said the following day in his weekly visit with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies.
“I think he can go his 100-105-110 pitches. I think now you saw the crispness of his fastball.”
“I think that you’re seeing the progression of a veteran pitcher,” Rizzo added, “a Hall of Fame-type of pitcher getting ready for letting it loose and letting it eat, and I think that we’re just seeing the beginnings of Max getting back to Max.”
Scherzer took the mound for start No. 4 off the IL with a 2-0 lead, and threw a scoreless, 14-pitch bottom of the first against the Braves in SunTrust Park, but he gave up a one-out solo home run to right by Matt Joyce in the bottom of the second inning, with Atlanta’s outfielder connecting on a 90 MPH 3-2 cutter that went out over the high wall in right, 3-1.
It was 4-1 Nationals in the fourth when Scherzer walked Josh Donaldson with one down and gave up a two-base hit to right by Joyce, but back-to-back Ks got the Nationals’ starter out of the second and third, one-out jam and the 20-pitch frame left him at 80 overall after four.
An 11-pitch, 1-2-3 fifth, in which he picked up two Ks, left Scherzer at 91 pitches with nine strikeouts from 19 batters, and he retired the side in order in a seven-pitch sixth, with the Nationals’ starter catching a liner back to the mound from Donaldson for out No. 3.
Max Scherzer & Josh Donaldson.— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 9, 2019
"Yeah, I caught it."
Shades of Jose Fernandez & Tulo. pic.twitter.com/2NLQa2Gmrq
A four-run top of the seventh made it an 8-1 game in the Nats’ favor, and Scherzer’s fill-in manager, Chip Hale, running things after Davey Martinez got ejected, decided that it was enough...
Max Scherzer’s Line: 6.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 Bb, 9 Ks, 1 HR, 98 P, 64 S, 3/3 GO/FO.
Scherzer generated 17 swinging strikes, nine with his slider, six with his four-seam fastball, and two with his changeup, and recorded 18 called strikes, 13 with his four-seamer, which sat at 95.5 MPH average, and got up to 97.5.
“Thought I was able to be aggressive with the fastball,” Scherzer told reporters, as quoted by MASN’s Kerr after the game, a 9-4 win for the Nationals which allowed them to avoid a sweep of the four-game set.
“The pitch count was up today, 20, 40, 60, 80 (pitches). Kind of the first four innings, but where I was missing with that location, I was hitting the right spot just two inches off.
“So if I was trying to go away I’d miss away two inches off or I was going in two inches off. For me, that’s a good sign in my mechanics that I’m missing where I want to.”
Wanted— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 9, 2019
Maxwell M. "Mad Max" Scherzer
Pitcher-on-Pitcher Crime (back to back filthy sliders).
The Nats’ ace said he was, in fact, able to go all out in this outing, stepping it up now that he has some innings on his arm.
“Yeah, full-throttle,” Scherzer said. “From beginning all the way to the end. I felt good even coming out. I was even ready to pitch the seventh inning, really thought I had 110 pitches today.”
“I think he’s back to where he feels like he can throw any pitch at any time,” Hale said, when he filled in for Martinez in the post-game presser as well, “and sort of step on that gas pedal when he needs to, and that’s what he keeps telling us. We were going to send him back out [for the seventh] until we got the runs to put us farther ahead and it was such a long inning, he’d run the bases we felt at that point that was enough for him, but he had enough to go I think 110 today, so he felt pretty good about himself.”
That’s right, we forgot to mention that Scherzer did his part in the four-run seventh inning, singling after Yan Gomes opened the inning with a home run, then stealing second base, his first steal this season, and scoring on an Adam Eaton double to right for the second of the four runs the Nationals scored.
“There’s no doubt he’s starting to feel it,” Hale said of Scherzer’s all-around effort, “that tells us ... we’re over there telling him, ‘Don’t run! Don’t run!’ we’re telling him, ‘Easy, easy,’ and he just — Max is going to do what Max is going to do, he’s a gamer, and he’s going to play the game the way you’re supposed to play it to be quite honest, so we’re just happy he came through it fine and no problems.”