Max Scherzer took the mound with a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first last night in Petco Park, and retired the San Diego Padres in order.
Then, after a 1-2-3 bottom of the second, the Washington Nationals’ ace came back out in the third inning, up 6-0, and worked around a one-out single for a third scoreless frame.
It was 8-0 as he returned to the mound in the fourth ... and flat. out. imploded.
“Uncharacteristic,” is the one word Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez chose to describe what happened next.
Scherzer, 36, got up 0-2 on Fernando Tatis, Jr. two pitches into the first at bat of the Padres’ fourth, but couldn’t put him away, and six pitches later, he gave up a home run to left on a 96 MPH fastball up and in that Tatis hit into the upper or second deck, 433 feet from home plate.
One out later, Scherzer hit Manny Machado with an 0-2 fastball. Trent Grisham singled on a 1-0 changeup up and away. Eric Hosmer reached base too, when Scherzer hit him with a 1-2 cutter. Wil Myers started down 0-2, but worked the count full, and walked to force one in, 8-2, then one out later, with the bases still loaded, reliever Daniel Camarena, in his second at bat in the majors, fell behind 0-2, and hit a 96 MPH 1-2 fastball out to right for a grand slam, 8-6.
Tommy Phan’s double in the next at bat ended Scherzer’s outing, after he threw 45 pitches in the fourth. Pham scored on an RBI single by Tatis, adding one more run to the Nationals’ ace’s line after Kyle Finnegan took over on the mound.
Max Scherzer’s Line: 3.2 IP, 5 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 1 BB, 7 Ks, 2 HRs, 91 P, 58 S, 1/2 GO/FO.
“Uncharacteristic. I mean, I’ve never seen him like that, just a tough fourth inning for him,” manager Davey Martinez said after what ended up a 9-8, walk-off loss to the Padres.
And the grand slam by the Padres’ reliever, which was apparently the first time a pitcher hit a grand slam for his first major league hit since 1898.
“He yanked a fastball,” Martinez said of the pitch to Camarena. “Threw it right in his barrel, and just watching him hitting batters, for him it was frustrating, I know that. He was up there in pitches for that inning, I think he threw over 40, so I was going to give him one more hitter, try to get out of the inning, and Pham got the base hit, I had to get him out of there.”
“I just ran into a buzz saw there in the fourth,” Scherzer said when asked what went wrong in his own post game Zoom call. “I know a lot of attention is going to be [paid] to the grand slam, and rightfully so, but for me the way I process that inning is: I had two strikes on some other batters there. Specifically I wasn’t able to get Machado out, wasn’t able to get Hosmer out, wasn’t able to get Wil Myers out, those are the at bats that extend that inning that provide that opportunity.
“So for me, that’s what I reflect upon and how I can pitch better in those situations.”
And the pitch on the grand slam?
“Yeah, I mean, I threw a pitch, he put a swing on it, and hit a home run, just turn the page and move on.”
Scherzer’s manager said he hopes the Nationals’ ace is able to do that.
“He’s been pitching so well, and ... he was doing so well the first three innings, it was one inning,” Martinez said. “So, for me it’s I’m going to have a conversation with him just to see what his thoughts were, and he’s got to put it behind him, he’s had such an unbelievable first half going into the [All-Star] break, so we just got to put that inning behind and focus on when he gets back from the break.”
Scherzer said he’s already processed it and started to move on.
“Like I said, I kind of identified the at bats that got away from me,” he reiterated.
“To me they are more critical than what happened on the home run. So, you want to reflect upon that, that’s how I look at this outing, and where can I be better? That’s where I can be better.”
“When you don’t put away batters in specific situations, when I’m in my kill counts,” he said, “...bad things happen. Tonight, I had two strikes on all those batters and I wasn’t able to put them away. Doesn’t matter if you’re up eight, doesn’t matter if you’re in a tie game or something like that. That’s the way I have to pitch. I have to put away batters when I get to two strikes. Unfortunately there in the fourth inning when it was critical I wasn’t able to do that.”
The Padres came all the way back from an 8-0 deficit, and they won it on a walk-off hit in the bottom of the ninth, 9-8 final.