Max Scherzer had a streak of 19 straight scoreless innings going before he gave up four runs in the third inning of his fifth start of the 2021 campaign last Tuesday.
Scherzer ended up giving up eight hits (two home runs), and seven runs, (five earned), in five innings in start No. 5 for the 36-year-old veteran last week in Dunedin, FL, where the Washington Nationals played the Toronto Blue Jays in their temporary home.
“I didn’t pitch well tonight, that’s obvious. I didn’t execute,” Scherzer said, in summing up his outing after what ended up being a 9-5 loss to the Jays.
“I was really inconsistent with my glove side stuff,” he explained, “... 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 out of that thigh-high region.”
He did, however, say that he thought it was a quick fix he could implement between outings, while noting that some things may have cropped up while he was piling up scoreless innings that he didn’t address while he was having success.
Max Scherzer, 95mph Fastball and 86mph Changeup, Overlay pic.twitter.com/MISmKPObwd— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 2, 2021
“Everything is a quick fix once you get into the middle of the season,” Scherzer said.
“When you’re on a roll it’s easy to develop bad tics, and you just kind of brush them aside just because you’re in rhythm and you just think that you can just keep going, and you don’t realize that you’re creating bad habits, and then obviously when you catch a buzz saw then all of a sudden you get beat.
“Sometimes getting beat and beaten around can help you get your head on straight, and really dial in exactly what you want to do with the baseball the next time when you’re out there.”
Scherzer’s head appeared to be on straight during Sunday’s series finale with the Miami Marlins in the nation’s capital, as he tossed a complete game, losing a shutout bid in the ninth before wrapping things up in a 3-1 win.
He threw 106 pitches total, collected nine strikeouts, walked no one, recorded 22 swinging strikes, 13 with his fastball, and got 16 called strikes, nine with his fastball. That’s not all.
“He was awesome,” manager Davey Martinez said after the game. “He pumped strikes. I think he had like 23 out of 31 first-pitch strikes. No walks. As a pitcher, a starting pitcher, that’s what you’ve got to do.”
As MASN’s Mark Zuckerman noted, we probably shouldn’t be surprised at the way Scherzer bounced back from his rough outing against the Jays.
“Nine times since signing with the Nationals in 2015, Scherzer has given up six or more runs in a start. And in nine subsequent starts, he owns a 2.31 ERA, having never been charged with more than three runs in any of them.”
“He’s getting strikes, that’s what’s making him really effective,” Martinez added when asked about Scherzer’s ability to rebound from a bad outing.
“He’s pumping first-pitch strikes, getting ahead of hitters, a lot of 0-2 counts. In this league it’s tough to hit when you’ve got a guy like Max out there when you’ve got to hit 0-2. So, he had a great day, and he’s been pitching well.
“He’s going to go have a baby right now tonight. I wish him and his wife all the best and we’ll get him back next week.”
Yeah, Scherzer and his wife were preparing for the birth of their third child as the 36-year-old right-hander was dominating the Marlins.
“We knew going into it, that’s why we tried to make it a quick game,” catcher Yan Gomes said. “I’m kidding. No, we knew going into it that him and his wife were having their third child today.
“We’re really excited for them. Hopefully everything goes well, we’ll be thinking about them today, or tonight I guess.”
Gomes, who’s now caught Scherzer 15 times during their time together in D.C., said he was not surprised to see the three-time Cy Young award winner respond to his tough outing last week with a strong showing on Sunday.
“I mean, the thing is Max has been doing it for a long time,” Gomes said.
Max Scherzer, 96mph on pitch 106 (9th K/CG).— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 2, 2021
And grunt. pic.twitter.com/arTLHM3fCj
“His bad starts you’re kind of like — guys were just locking in on him. Max, he’s figured out how to bounce back. And it’s not something that like he comes out and throws harder. He comes out and does something that he’s usually not done before.
“It’s just a matter of him figuring out what was working and what wasn’t, and sometimes he’ll even tip the cap. Sometimes guys will put good swings on some pitches, and he just comes out and refocuses himself, turns the page, I doubt if you ever ask him he’ll tell you that he was thinking about the Blue Jays outing.”
“I think with the way he’s pitched — you’re not going to do that every time,” teammate Ryan Zimmerman said, after his three-run home run helped Scherzer get the W. “But when he does have a bad one the odds are in his favor to have a good one the next time. But I think that’s him too, just going through it and pitching as much as he has, and being a veteran, I think the guys in the big leagues can hit too and if you make mistakes, they can hit, it doesn’t matter if you’re Max Scherzer or whoever it is. And he understands that, and kind of he’s really good at putting it behind him and coming out the next time and being ready to go.”