Facing the New York Mets for the second time in a week, after the first outing ended just an inning in with a right hamstring tweak forcing him from the mound, Max Scherzer went 105 pitches and six innings deep into the start, giving up just six hits and one run in what was a 2-1 win in Citi Field.
Scherzer’s big concern coming out of the start was the fact that he had trouble putting Met hitters away, striking out just seven of the 25 batters he faced, after he’d put up 11 and 10 Ks, respectively, in his first two starts of the 2020 campaign.
“I’ve got to get my strikeouts,” the three-time Cy Young award winner said.
“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. I think once I got going — I was kind of tired there after the second, after having two long innings, arm was a little dead, but that actually helped out my changeup actually, was able to start going into the zone with a changeup, and that pitch really helped me out there in the middle part of the game. Even though I kind of got gassed a little bit from what they were able to do against me, I was still able to find a way just to keep competing and keep coming up with pitches to collect outs.’”
The outing left Scherzer with a 2.75 ERA, 10 walks, 29 Ks, and a .225/.313/.324 line against in 19 2⁄3 IP early in this 60-game pandemic-affected season.
Max Scherzer, Disgusting 86mph Slider...and Sword. ⚔️ pic.twitter.com/qde0h3tKBC— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 16, 2020
Scherzer had strikeout stuff early on Sunday afternoon in Oriole Park at Camden Yards, with three Ks in the first, though he did give up his second home run of the season on a 1-0 pitch to Anthony Santander that didn’t get quite down and in enough. It was 3-1 Nationals at that point.
After picking up his fourth K (from eight batters) in a 13-pitch second, Scherzer retired the O’s in order in the bottom of the third, giving him outs from eight of the previous nine O’s hitters.
Scherzer picked up three more strikeouts for seven total (from 16 batters) as he worked to strand the two batters who singled in a 22-pitch fourth which left him at 61 pitches total.
Working with a 5-1 lead, Scherzer gave up a bunt single but picked up two Ks in a scoreless 12-pitch fifth.
A leadoff walk, one-out single, and a wild pitch put runners on second and third with one out in the Orioles’ half of the sixth.
Max Scherzer, Wicked 87mph Slider. pic.twitter.com/6NLJZq0eiS— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 16, 2020
Pedro Severino stepped in next and hit a 95 MPH, 2-0 fastball out to left field for a three-run blast that made it a one-run game, 5-4 Nationals.
Scherzer came back out for the seventh at 96 pitches, and recorded two outs before he gave up a game-tying solo shot by Santander, whose second home run made it 5-5...
Max Scherzer’s Line: 7.0 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 10 Ks, 3 HRs, 111 P, 75 S, 3/2 GO/FO.
The Orioles’ lead didn’t last long. With Scherzer still the pitcher of record in the top of the eighth, a run scored on a two-out error then Tanner Rainey and Daniel Hudson locked the win up with scoreless innings in the bottom of the eighth and ninth.
Did the three home runs Scherzer allowed take away some from what he did accomplish in the outing?
“We won,” the 36-year-old, 13-year veteran said after the game.
“At the end of the day we won. I can go back and watch the video and critique myself, but at the end of the day, I come here to win, and we won today, so that’s the most important thing.”
Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez talked about the decision to send Scherzer back out for the seventh.
“He was still throwing the ball really well. We had a good conversation. He said he felt great,” the manager explained.
“When I talked to him I also talked to [catcher Kurt] Suzuki as well, and the ball was coming out. Last out he threw 95. So, he just made a big mistake. He tried to go away on Sevy, and the ball ran over the plate. The changeup to Santander was supposed to be down and he got it up, so, but I thought he still had a lot in the tank. We talked about him going 110-115 pitches, before the game, and he said he felt great.”
Max Scherzer, Filth 86mph Changeup.— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 16, 2020
Good look at his pronation through it. pic.twitter.com/OS2IRzVXQO
“You always want to pitch deep into games,” Scherzer said.
“You want to pitch efficiently and pitch as many innings as you can, because that helps out the bullpen. Keeps them from having to run out too many guys in a row, and tries to give everybody a blow. For me, that starts with attacking the zone, and just finding a way to get deep into a ballgame, and the difficult part is having to face a lineup the third time.”
Santander’s second home run came in his fourth trip to the plate against the Nationals’ ace.
“Yeah, I mean, we’ve hooked horns before and I know he’s a threat. And so I’m trusting Zuk in that situation,” Scherzer said of the changeup he left up in the zone to the O’s slugger.
“Understanding everything we’ve tried to game plan for, just trying to throw the pitches and try to execute.
“Tip my hat to him. He put some good swings on me today. Was able to clip me in the first, and then obviously that was a big home run there in the seventh.
“I pride myself on making sure that I’m strong and that the seventh inning can still be my best inning. So for me that’s frustrating to give up the homer in that situation given the context of the ballgame.”
Scherzer was at 109 pitches after the game-tying blast, but his manager stuck with him to get the last out of the seventh.
“He looked at me, after he gave up the home run to Santander from the mound, and I just looked at him and I said, ‘Go get’em.’
“And he got that last out before we took him out and it was kind of nice that we scored and he was able to get the win.”
tfw you're back in line for the Curly W pic.twitter.com/8yOWKA4yqF— Nationals on MASN (@masnNationals) August 16, 2020