Max Scherzer wasn’t hurt Wednesday even though his bruised face indicated otherwise. He had all he needed: clear eyes and a right arm full of gas.
The Nationals’ ace took the mound one night after he busted his nose by bunting a batting practice pitch into his face. The bunt was executed with, shall we say, less than total gusto. Scherzer’s pitching, on the other hand, was quintessential . . . Max effort.
He limited the Phillies to four hits and a pair of walks over seven scoreless innings and 117 pitches. He struck out 10. He got the win and the Nats (35-38) completed a sweep of a day-night doubleheader, which pushed them to four games behind the Phils for the National League’s second wild-card berth.
Now, while it’s true that Scherzer’s performance wasn’t a Bloody Sock Game or a gem thrown by someone whose elbow (or hamstring) could unravel at any second, it was still a forceful reminder to teammates and opponents alike: Answer the call, do your job, no excuses.
“This is just going to be part of what you got to do. You take the ball every fifth time,” Scherzer told reporters after the game, per The Washington Post. He said he felt “zero” pain on the mound and minimal discomfort. Scherzer also said he would have lobbied to stay in if the break had occurred during a game.
Nats second baseman Brian Dozier was of a similar mind.
“Well, I hate to kind of undercut it by any means,” Dozier said, per the Post, “but we expect that from him.”
Scherzer expected to work deep Wednesday, especially after the first few frames. He got the seventh inning from manager Davey Martinez and, in typical fashion, finished with a flourish. MLB.com says he threw 13 four-seam fastballs in the inning; his slowest was 94.3 mph and his fastest was 97.6. He struck out his last three batters.
He long ago earned respect from teammates with his competitive fire and his ability to put up numbers, but this game, and Scherzer’s 2019 season, should lift him to a higher perch, even if he is counted on to be indestructible. Scherzer leads the National League with 146 Ks and 106 1/3 innings pitched, and his 2.62 ERA is fourth-best. He’s right in the heart of what is now a crowded Cy Young race.
If the Nats’ promotions people were smart (or just feeling mischievous), they’d rush to create a new batch of Scherzer bobbleheads for their scheduled Friday giveaway. Show the type of commitment their ace does and add a splotch of purple paint below every right eye. Show that the organization can get the job done, too, no matter what might get in the way.
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