Max Scherzer took a liner back to the mound off his shoulder early in Saturday’s matchup with the Miami Marlins in the nation’s capital, but brushed it off, and held the Fish scoreless over the first three innings as the Washington Nationals jumped out to a 3-0 lead.
It was 5-0 after four, with Scherzer up to 77 pitches when he came out for the fifth and gave up a one-out double, two-out RBI single, and two-run home run that made it a 5-3 game.
Scherzer was up to 96 pitches when he gave up a two-out single which extended the top of the inning, and another hit on his 99th offering brought manager Davey Martinez out to the mound for a chat with his starter, who stayed in the game, but hit Brian Anderson on the elbow with a fastball, loading the bases on his 104th pitch. Jesús Sánchez took a four-pitch walk in the next at bat, forcing in the Marlins’ fourth run, 5-4, and ending Scherzer’s night...
Max Scherzer’s Line: 4.2 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 5 Ks, 1 HR, 108 P, 67 S, 4/2 GO/FO.
Kyle Finnegan got Marlins’ catcher Jorge Alfaro looking to leave’em loaded and preserve the one-run lead, and the Nationals went on to win the first game of the doubleheader, 5-4 final.
Scherzer ended the day half of the twin bill with 14 swinging strikes (five with his four-seam fastball; two with his changeup, six with his slider, and one with his curve), and the 36-year-old, three-time Cy Young award-winner got 15 called strikes as well (10 with his four-seamer; one with his changeup, and two each with his slider and curve).
“There [were] a couple batters I had some bad locations on and another couple times I didn’t hit my spot,” Scherzer said in breaking down his fifth inning struggles in his post game press conference.
“They were able to just get a hit and able to continue to extend the inning. Then when it got down to when you really need to get an out against say Anderson and Sánchez, I just wasn’t able to get the job done, wasn’t able to locate, and obviously I had a hit-by-pitch and then walked somebody on four straight, that’s on me.”
Max Scherzer, Overpowering 97mph Fastball. pic.twitter.com/Mofk79u62D— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 22, 2020
The mound visit by his manager in the fifth wasn’t greeted with the sort of fire we’ve seen from Scherzer at times in the past, but he did assure his skipper he had enough left to get out of the inning.
“I just know I still had plenty in the tank in that situation,” Scherzer said.
“I understand my pitch count’s up in that situation, and he did the right job in coming out and checking on me and making sure I was good to go, but yeah, I train for those situations, I’ve had success in those situations, and the fact that there’s been a couple times where I haven’t had success doesn’t mean I’m going to continue to have failure in those situations.
Max Scherzer, Filthy 87mph Slider...and Sword. ⚔️ pic.twitter.com/eouCWHSKaw— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 22, 2020
“I believe that I can pitch in tough spots in the game, even late in the game, even when my pitch count is over 100. I still believe I can execute in those situations.
“Unfortunately the last couple games I haven’t done that, and I need to get better at that.”
The bullpen preserved the one-run lead Scherzer handed them, and the Nationals won, 5-4, but more importantly, the rotation’s ace said he was just happy the liner back to the mound early in the game didn’t end up causing serious damage.
“Thankfully it was a glancing blow, and I‘m just more happy that it didn’t hit me in the head,” Scherzer said.
“That ball was coming right back at me and fortunately I was able to turn and it caught me on the back side of the shoulder.
“Fortunate enough it was glancing enough that it didn’t really leave too big of a welt.
“I was able to kind of keep it loose and I was able to still pitch on it, still able to get through the ball, so you just continue to march on.
“It was a bad spot, but fortunately it didn’t do as much damage given that the location of that spot could be pretty bad.”