In back-to-back losses to Cincinnati’s Reds and Milwaukee’s Brewers, Max Scherzer received one run of support, total, in what ended up 2-1 and 3-0 losses in the nation’s capital, and it looked like the Washington Nationals’ ace was headed for another hard-luck loss, or no-decision this past Friday night in the series opener with the Philadelphia Phillies in Citizens Bank Park.
Scherzer gave up just one run through five, as did Phillies’ righty Zack Wheeler, who retired the first nine batters he faced, before giving up a leadoff walk in the top of the fourth which came around to score the first run of the game for either team. His teammates answered in the bottom of the fourth inning though, and things were tied up at 1-1 before scoreless fifth innings for each starter.
Max Scherzer, Filthy 85mph Changeup. pic.twitter.com/TMvo0f18d2— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 4, 2021
Talking after the loss to the Brewers in his previous outing before Friday’s start, Scherzer did address the lack of support he’d received, and the pressure of pitching when it seems like a single mistake can make the difference.
“Yeah, I mean the offense is in a little lull, they’ll snap out of it,” Scherzer said back on May 30th. “These guys are good, they know what to do. I’m not going to sit here and say, ‘As soon as I give up a run, I’m going to lose.’ I have confidence in my teammates, and what they’re going to be able to do.
“But yeah, over the past handful of starts it has worked out that way. But look, you’ve got to rise to the occasion, you’ve got to match it. Especially when you’re going against [Brandon] Woodruff, who’s throwing the ball extremely well this year, you got to execute every single time out, every pitch matters. And so that’s what happens when you get in pitching duels like this.”
Max Scherzer: Reported. Bullying. pic.twitter.com/3l9i6yTyFj— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 5, 2021
In the top of the sixth inning of another pitchers’ duel in the series opener with the Phillies, Scherzer got a second run of support when Juan Soto broke up the 1-1 tie with a solo shot on a 98 MPH 1-0 heater from Wheeler that went out to left field in Citizens Bank to put the Nationals up 2-1.
Not that Scherzer ever needs additional motivation when he’s on the mound, but even so, he acknowledged after the Nats’ 2-1 win that Soto’s blast provided a boost.
“I mean, you know going up against Zack it’s going to tough matchup and the runs are going to be at a premium,” Scherzer said.
“I’ve been facing good arms across the game for a handful of starts now, so it was good to be able to scratch that second run across and get the lead. I just felt like, ‘Hey, I finally got a lead here, going deeper into the game, let’s do everything to protect it, let’s not get caught making a mistake.’ And so fortunately enough I was able to avoid any additional solo shots, or any innings where they were able to scratch runs across.
“Credit to our guys to be able to grind out Zack, he’s been throwing the ball great this year, and he’s really got tough stuff, so awesome to be able to get that second run.”
Soto was thrilled that he could provide that support to the Nationals’ ace.
Max Scherzer, Wicked Changeups. pic.twitter.com/Ljd0Xp9Wtr— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 5, 2021
“It feels great, and more a guy like that,” Soto said. “He’s working his ass off out there, and he’s just amazing. What he’s done, and how he pitches every moment, every time he goes out there, he’s giving 100%, and it’s just great to get some runs for him.”
“It was huge,” manager Davey Martinez said of the second run of support Scherzer received in the win. “As you know, your No. 1 guy usually faces No. 1 guys, and Wheeler threw the ball really well as well. For us to go ahead and get that lead, Soto putting us ahead, Max did everything he could to keep us on top, and then [Daniel Hudson] and [Brad] Hand came in and finished it out, so it was a great win for our ballclub.”
Scherzer went 7 2⁄3 innings, Hudson finished the eighth, and, with help from Alex Avila on a 2-unassisted put-out, got two outs in the ninth, then Hand closed out the 2-1 win.