Max Scherzer gave up an uncharacteristic four runs on four solo home runs in six innings of work in his 2021 debut, but the Washington Nationals’ ace had given up just one run in 19 IP since, walking four and striking out 24 in his last three outings heading into his matchup on the road in Dunedin, FL against the Toronto Blue Jays last night.
Scherzer talked after his start against the St. Louis Cardinals last week in the nation’s capital about his success following the less-than-stellar initial appearance this season, and his work to limit the walks and pound the strike zone as he sharpened his game. His approach?
“Attack the zone,” he said. “I’m always priding myself on throwing strike one and working ahead in the count, and when I can do that that’s when I pitch my best. I still feel I can throw strike one better. I don’t think my strike one percentages are really where I really want them. But even when I’m behind in the count I’m able to throw any pitch at any time and throw it for a strike, and that keeps you out of hitters being able to really do damage against you, and try to prevent the walk.”
Scherzer took the mound in Dunedin, FL’s TD Ballpark on Tuesday night with a streak of 17-straight scoreless innings going, and he stretched it to 19-straight before he ran into some trouble in the third, giving up back-to-back, one-out singles and a base-loading walk.
He then surrendered a grand slam on a 2-1 slider to Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. whose fifth of the season went out to left field and put the Blue Jays up 4-3 after the Nationals jumped out to an early, three-run lead.
Scherzer gave up two in the Blue Jays’ fourth as well, when a leadoff double, botched pop-up behind second base, and a sac fly combined to put the Nationals deeper in the hole, 6-3.
Then Guerrero got Scherzer again in the sixth, hitting a 3-2 fastball out to center for his second of three home runs in what ended up a 9-5 win for the Blue Jays.
Max Scherzer’s Line: 5.0 IP, 8 H, 7 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 5 Ks, 2 HRs, 86 P, 54 S, 4/4 GO/FO.
“I didn’t pitch well tonight, that’s obvious,” Scherzer said in his post game Zoom call with reporters.
“I didn’t execute. I was really inconsistent with my glove side stuff. Wherein sometimes I would execute a slider or fastball glove side, and then the next time I would be leaving it arm-side, so for me that’s what I got to fix. I got to clean up, and dial it in.
“There’s too many pitches that are thigh-high, and everybody in the league now can just crush thigh-high pitches and so you’ve to work around that, you’ve got to pitch up, you’ve got to pitch down, and do a better job of getting it our of that thigh-high region.”
Video Game Vlad does it AGAIN pic.twitter.com/1BrP4I2muK— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) April 28, 2021
The home runs by Guerrero, he said, fit into that category, or were in that region.
“I wanted a slider down and away in that situation and it just stayed thigh-high,” he said of the pitch on the grand slam. “Picked up too much of the zone in that scenario, and I had already shown him enough, so I know that was kind of a dangerous pitch to throw, but I thought if I got it down and away we had a chance to get another ground ball out of him.
“Or at least get it to two strikes, maybe he could foul it off, unfortunately it didn’t work that way.”
“He was good ... other than on Vladimir,” manager Davey Martinez said. “He got the ball up out over the plate, and Vladimir — you can’t make mistakes in this ballpark, I can tell you that right now. As you can see the ball travels fairly well. So, I just thought he threw the ball up over the zone and Vladi put goods swings on them.”