Nine of the 10 home runs Max Scherzer allowed on the season going into Sunday’s series finale with the Milwaukee Brewers were solo home runs, two of them in his outing against the Cincinnati Reds last week in the nation’s capital.
What’s a common thread on the home runs he’s allowed? “They’re mistake pitches,” the three-time Cy Young award winner said after facing the Reds.
“Homers are mistakes, and so when you give up a couple, you’re making a couple mistakes,” Scherzer explained. “It can happen at any point in this league, the guys in the rest of the league, they have their swings crafted so when you make a mistake thigh-high they can hit the ball out of the ballpark at will. That’s the common thread from every home run that I basically give up, is that I’m not executing that specific pitch.”
The 94 MPH fastball up in the zone he threw to Avisaíl García with two out in the top of the first on Sunday afternoon was a poorly-executed mistake as well, according to Scherzer, center-cut and belt-high as it was, and there was a runner on too, after a one-out walk, and force at second left a man on first base with two down.
The second homer of eleven he’s allowed this season that wasn’t a solo one put the Brewers up 2-0 early after they took both ends of the doubleheader in D.C. on Saturday afternoon.
Scherzer retired 16 of the next 17 batters he faced after the home run, striking out eight, but with the club still trailing 2-0 in the sixth, the Nationals went with a pinch hitter in his spot in the batting order.
“We needed to get some offense there. I needed to get somebody on. We had [Juan] Soto leading off, I thought [Yadiel Hernández] did a great job right there,” Nats’ manager Davey Martinez said after what ended up a 3-0 loss.
“When we’re not scoring runs we got to take every opportunity to try to score runs. I got Yadi up there, he got on base, and like I said, it was a big moment for us and it just didn’t work out.
“But Scherzer did his thing. He kept us in the ballgame, but we’ve got to try to score.”
When you’re not scoring runs, however? How do you stick with it and keep doing what you’re doing with the expectation it will turn around eventually when it isn’t happening during extended stretches?
“You just got to go out there and just do your job,” Scherzer said. “You got to think about all the little things that you can do better, individually.
“Everybody probably has a laundry list of things that they can go out there and do better, everybody in that clubhouse, and so instead of worrying about what the other people’s lists are, just worry about yourself. What can I do better? What can I execute better? What can I sequence better? And just evaluate myself to the toughest standard possible, and try to meet that, that’s all I can do.”
So ... how did he evaluate his outing against the Brewers overall?
“Was able to collect outs when I needed them, was able to execute some pitches all day long except for that pitch to García,” Scherzer said. “That’s the difference in the ballgame.
“You knew runs were going to be at a premium,” Scherzer said of the club going up against Brandon Woodruff, who has been dominant this season, “and made a mistake in what I was doing in terms of sequencing and everything against him, and paid for it.
“So, wish I would have been better.”
He was, of course, pretty good, outside of that one mistake pitch to García. What were he and catcher Yan Gomes looking for there?
“Yan wanted a high fastball in that situation,” Scherzer said, “ that was something we talked about before, that’s one of my strengths, pitching up in the zone, and I got it up there, probably at his belt, I needed it to be higher ... for a guy who’s a good high fastball hitter. That’s the pitch I want back, but that’s not how life works, you’ve got to accept your mistake and move on, and learn from it and the next time I’m in that situation execute a different pitch in that sequence.”