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Washington Nationals’ Max Scherzer knocked around a bit in final tune-up for Opening Day

Max Scherzer gave up two three-run home runs and seven runs total in last night’s exhibition game in Nationals Park.

Philadelphia Phillies v Washington Nationals Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Max Scherzer’s final line (if MLB’s GameDay has it right) wasn’t pretty (5.0 IP, 6 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 2 BB, 6 Ks, 2 HRs, 88 P, 58 S, 3/3 GO/FO), but he said he was fine with that, since he’s going to be dealing with tough innings and rough outings occasionally, once they start playing them for real next week.

“I got beat around a little bit,” the three-time Cy Young award winner told reporters in a Zoom call after he was done for the night, “... but that’s good. Have to work out of the stretch, have to make pitches in those type of situations.

“That’s what happens in the regular season. It’s not always just going through lineups and everything’s easy.

“No, in the big leagues, you have a lot of innings like that, where you have to be able to go down and grind, so the fact that I did give up runs, that’s the type of situations that you’re going to be in during the season.”

Scherzer gave up two three-run blasts, one each by Didi Gregorius and Bryce Harper in the first and second innings, respectively, but he retired nine of the last ten batters he faced in his final tune-up before facing the Yankees on Opening Day, when New York comes to D.C. this coming Thursday.

What did his manager see in Scherzer’s final tune-up?

“What I look for with Max, is just the way he feels after he comes out and how many pitches, how many ups he gets,” Davey Martinez told reporters after what ended up a 7-2 loss.

“Max is Max. He’s going to come out Opening Day and be fired up and compete. Today was no different.

“He likes to go through innings in Spring Training where he struggles and he’s got to dig deep. I know that. But I think he’s going to be ready.

“He said he felt really good after he came out, so that was kind of nice, and he finished up strong.”

“I was joking around,” Martinez continued. “He said, ‘How many pitches I got left?’ And I said, ‘Not more than 10-11,’ and he went out there and struck out the side.”

“Just trying to get my work in, trying to throw first pitch strikes,” Scherzer said when asked to run through his outing.

“Trying to fill the zone with the fastballs. Just work with [catcher Kurt Suzuki], and just trying to attack the zone and really try to get some of these offspeed pitches back in the zone.

“I thought that was one of the things I didn’t do quite as well the last start, and one of the things I wanted to make sure I tuned up and really had a feel for the zone before Opening Day.”

Just getting to this point, through the shutdown in mid-March, the negotiations on how the season would work between MLB and the MLBPA, and the quick ramp-up to a season when Commissioner Rob Manfred mandated a 60-game campaign, has been a lot of work, so the soon-to-turn-36-year-old, 12-year veteran said he was just happy to be where he is now, as weird as this season might end up being.

“It’s going to be great,” Scherzer said, “and just the amount of work that everybody has had to go through to get to this point.

“There’s been a lot of hours I had to pour into union calls, and guys across the league and keeping our guys informed across that whole time period.

“So there’s just been a tremendous amount of work that everybody’s had to do to get the season up and going. We’re very fortunate to be playing baseball in 2020.

“We had to jump through a lot of hoops, but that’s just something that we’re all comfortable doing, and we’ll do anything to be able to play baseball.”

Getting his final start of Spring Training 2.0 out of the way with Opening Day just five days away, was just the next step in the process.

“I’ve known I was going to have four starts coming into this whole time, so everybody knows what they have to do to prepare to get ready for the season,” Scherzer said.

“I know what I needed to accomplish out of the four starts to get ready for the season as best as I could. To be able to do the pitch count, and press the pitch count up above 80 today, and get it above 85, that really bodes well to go out there and really compete deep in the game, more so that I even thought I was going to be able to coming into this.”