Going into the second start of the 2020 campaign for Max Scherzer, Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez talked about how to go at a young team like Toronto’s Blue Jays, who had been aggressive at the plate in the previous two games in Washington, D.C.
“These guys are going to swing the bat,” Martinez explained. “They go up there, and as we saw, their leadoff hitter goes up there, he’s very aggressive, he swings at the first pitch he sees.
“With Max, he’s a veteran guy, he understands, but they’re going to be up there and they’re going to be overly aggressive, and you just got to make good pitches.”
Scherzer was sharp from the start this time out, after giving up runs early in his 2020 debut.
Max Scherzer, Disgusting 92mph Cutter. pic.twitter.com/xJ2Sra93nq— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 29, 2020
The Nationals’ ace worked around two hits and two walks in four scoreless frames, striking out six of the 15 Jays’ batters he faced, and he added two more Ks in a 13-pitch, 1-2-3 fifth, which left him at 75 pitches total on the night.
A 1-2-3 sixth gave him 10-straight outs and six scoreless innings on 88 pitches, with nine Ks from 21 batters faced, and another 1-2-3 frame in the seventh gave him 13-straight outs, and the 10-pitch frame left him at 98 pitches after seven scoreless, in what was still a 0-0 game.
Scherzer came back out for the eighth though, even with the high pitch count, and gave up a leadoff single, and, after a stolen base, an errant pick attempt put the runner on third.
Scherzer issued a walk on his 112th pitch before he was done for the night, in what was still a 0-0 game.
Daniel Hudson took over with runners on the corners and one out and got an inning-ending 6-4-3 DP to keep Scherzer’s shutout intact.
Max Scherzer’s Line: 7.1 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 10 Ks, 112 P, 70 S, 9/2 GO/FO.
Max Scherzer, Wicked 87mph Slider. pic.twitter.com/oHgCHxEpfi— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 29, 2020
It went to extras, and the Nationals, taking advantage of the runner on second, scored four runs and went on to win their second game in six games so far this season.
“We needed this win,” Scherzer said when he spoke with reporters after the win.
“We needed to start getting some mojo going and so it’s good to see the offense really — the 10th inning the offense got going, and sometimes hitting can be contagious and hopefully that rolls into tomorrow.”
It was a tightly-contested game, and the Nationals, who’d lost four of five going in, went up against debuting rookie Nate Pearson, who tossed five scoreless in an impressive outing in the Nats’ home.
“There was no room for any error,” Scherzer said. “Just happy to get out of here unscathed, and then for our team to be able to get a win.”
Two starts into empty ballpark games, what was this sort of tense matchup like for the 13-year veteran?
Max Scherzer, Filthy 86mph Changeup. pic.twitter.com/NgPzQx9GjE— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 29, 2020
“You still have that mentality of getting locked in,” Scherzer said, “of trying to go out there and execute pitches. Don’t get me wrong, I miss the fans more than anything. I would love to find a way to be able to engineer to get them in here. I would love to find a way to have that happen.
“But until then it is what it is. You’ve got to deal with it. They’ve got to deal with it. I have to deal with it. You just can’t cry about it. I’m not going to cry about it. I’m just going to go out there and pitch and bring it every single time I can and go after the opponent as hard as I can.”
The decision to send Scherzer back out for the eighth, even at 98 pitches, was made by the starter and his manager together, with the knowledge that he’ll be going on extra rest next time out since the Nationals have off until Tuesday night with the planned series in Miami this weekend postponed and an off day on Monday.
“He was good,” Martinez said. “He had no high-leverage innings, he felt good. We talk a lot about — he’s going to have an extra day before he pitches again, so he said he felt really good, and so he went out there, and I told him, I said, look, you’ve got about 108-109 pitches, I think he threw 112-113, which was for me, beyond what I want him to do, but he felt good. So we’ll see how bounces back tomorrow, but he’s got an extra day, so he should be ready to go.”
“Yeah,” Scherzer said, “the fact that I had quick innings in the sixth and seventh, where the pitch count was at, and the fact that I’m going to be on seven days’ [rest], all that calculus came into it in saying hey, I can go back out there for the eighth, and just kind of play it pitch-by-pitch, and just kind of see where I was at. So, I felt good enough to be able to go back out there, but I think the overwhelming reason for me to go back out there because I do have the extra rest. If I didn’t have that rest, I probably would have played it safe, because that’s the first time I’ve seen the seventh inning, trying to push it into the eighth, you might not take that risk, unless you have seven days. The fact that I have seven days, I can push myself, protect the arm, I’m going to be sore tomorrow, I won’t lie, but I have so much time now to be able to recover.”