A right hamstring issue ended Max Scherzer’s start after just one inning last week, but he got right to work on mitigating the problem, and as of Monday afternoon, when the series with the New York Mets in Citi Field got underway, manager Davey Martinez said Scherzer was good to go.
“He threw yesterday,” the manager said. “He threw the ball well. He’s good to go tomorrow.
“He said he feels fine. It’s so funny, the other day, two days ago he threw as well, and he said he could pitch two days ago.
“I told him your day is coming up so be ready. But he’s ready to go.”
How far would Scherzer go? Martinez was asked on Monday if the Nationals’ ace would be at all limited in his return to the rotation?
“We’ll have to manage him and watch him closely,” Martinez said.
“A lot has to do with — today it’s really humid, muggy — so that takes its toll especially when you’re pitching, and he’s a sweater, so we’ve got to keep an eye on him, but he says he feels good.”
Max Scherzer, 94mph Fastball and 84mph Changeup, Overlay. pic.twitter.com/jRJe1QSD5M— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 12, 2020
The manager reiterated before Scherzer took the mound that there would be no limitations on the three-time Cy Young winner, though everyone on the bench would be watching him closely.
“There will be no limitations on him,” Martinez said. “We’re going to watch him and see how the game progresses with him.
“He was adamant yesterday again with saying he was ready to go, so we’ll just keep an eye on him. I mean, he’s pretty honest about how he feels on a daily basis. So, we’ll just watch him, and we’ll have conversations throughout the game.
“He’s going to pitch as much as he can pitch and do what he does. He’s ready, he feels like he’s ready. He’s had some good bullpen sessions this past few days, so we’ll see what happens.”
Scherzer struggled through a 29-pitch first inning, working out of a bases-loaded, two-out jam, and labored through a long second as well, stranding two batters in what ended up a 31-pitch frame which left him at 60 total after two, though Trea Turner homered in the first at bat of the game, and an RBI single by Victor Robles gave him a 2-0 lead to work with.
J.D. Davis singled to right to start Scherzer’s third inning of work, but a backwards K and an unassisted double play followed in a quick, seven-pitch frame.
Scherzer gave up a run in the fourth, however, with Andrés Giménez tripling off the Nats’ starter with one down in the fourth and scoring on a sac fly to left by Luis Guillorme, 2-1.
A 16-pitch fifth, in which he worked around a two-out single, left Scherzer at 92 pitches on the night, and a 13-pitch sixth was his first 1-2-3 frame of the game, and his final inning this time out...
Max Scherzer’s Line: 6.0 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 Ks, 105 P, 71 S, 3/2 GO/FO.
Javy Guerra, Tanner Rainey, and Daniel Hudson followed Scherzer, combining for three scoreless innings in the second straight win over the Mets.
Max Scherzer, Rancid 85mph Changeup. pic.twitter.com/DBr16zTQjf— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 12, 2020
Scherzer’s pitch count was up early, but he managed it well after the first two innings, with 45 pitches over his final four innings of work after he threw 60 early. He ended the night at 105 total, with 13 swinging strikes (eight with his fastball), 15 called strikes (eight with his fastball), and 27 pitches fouled off (including 15 fastballs). Mets’ hitters ran his pitch count up, but Scherzer adjusted and stayed in the game.
“They had great ABs during the game and they were able to grind me and just a ton of foul balls,” Scherzer said after the win. “And there were some big spots there where the game really could have changed course there. I was able just to get some big strikeouts in some key situations to get out of those situations, even though my pitch count got out of control, was able to stay with [Kurt Suzuki] and just continue to pound the zone and was able to find a way to get through six tonight.”
It was the first full-on start (excepting the one-inning outing last week) in which he failed to reach double digits in Ks, settling for seven total from the 25 batters he faced.
“I’ve got to get my strikeouts,” Scherzer said.
Max Scherzer, Wicked 91mph Cutter...and Mound Stalk. pic.twitter.com/9Gog6K3vA9— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 12, 2020
“I’m a strikeout pitcher, that’s just how I pitch. If I’m just one click off from those out pitches with two strikes, it just allows them to be competitive and find a way to foul balls off.”
What was different than previous starts that kept him from finishing batters off at times?
“Just that last bit of execution,” the 36-year-old starter said. “You want efficient strikeouts. You don’t want 7-8 pitch at bats that end in a strikeout, you want to try to really optimize that and get them in 3-4-5 pitches. That’s something that I’m cognizant of, and that’s something that I study to try to make sure that I’m able to execute those pitches, but just they weren’t quite as sharp there in the early part of the game, and they did a great job of battling me and fouling those pitches off to not strike out and then look — they’re a good team, they’ve seen me a lot and they understand what I can do It’s always a grind when you face a team like that, especially a divisional opponent, so you know took some shots there early but didn’t break and just found a way to continue to execute pitches later in the game.”
“He started settling down,” his manager said when asked what helped Scherzer to settle in.
“He started mixing his pitches up better, but he started getting the ball down in the strike zone and getting some swings and misses.
“He started throwing his breaking pitches over the plate, which was nice, but like I said, we keep a close eye on him and the one thing for him is you just have to watch his mechanics.
“Especially when we know that he’s had a hamstring issue, so we wanted to make sure he was still on his legs and he was. And he pitched well. That last inning he was still up at 96 [MPH], so that was encouraging.”