Widener holds his own vs. Nats ace Scherzer
Taylor Widener knew who he was matched up against Friday night.
The D-backs right-hander was well aware of all that Max Scherzer had accomplished, and that it was likely that runs on this chilly night in Washington could be hard to come by.
So he reminded himself to focus on the Nationals hitters. He could control what they did, but he had no power over what Scherzer did on the mound.
In the end, Widener matched Scherzer zero for zero through six innings in a game that was decided when Kyle Schwarber hit a walk-off homer with one out in the ninth inning to give the Nationals a 1-0 win.
"Yeah, we got ourselves a good old-fashioned pitchers’ duel. And it was fun to watch Taylor go out there and execute a game plan." D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. "He gave us six unbelievable innings and right when we needed it most, you know, because we were up against somebody that was throwing the ball extremely well against us."
Scherzer struck out 10 over seven innings, giving him 2,808 for his career as he moved past Hall of Famer Cy Young for 22nd on the all-time strikeout list.
The D-backs only got one runner to second base all night, but while Widener was not as dominant as Scherzer, he was every bit as effective, pitching out of a first-and-third jam in the second and a runner on second in the fifth.
"I feel like I did a better job today keeping the offspeed pitches down," Widener said. "I didn't necessarily throw them for a strike when I wanted to, but I also didn't get hurt with them today."
While Scherzer was making the 371st start of his career, Widener was making just his third.
A starter in the Minor Leagues, Widener made his big league debut last year as a reliever and appeared in 12 games. It was a good bounceback season for him after he struggled in Triple-A in 2019.
This past offseason, like the one before it, he worked as a greenskeeper at The Westin Kierland Golf Club in Scottsdale.
A favorite to land a bullpen spot, Widener pitched well as a starter throughout the spring, and when the D-backs had to open the year with Zac Gallen on the injured list, Widener found himself in the rotation.
An outstanding first start against the Padres and a decent one against the Reds led up to his outing Friday.
"I'm just trusting the work that I put in the past few years because obviously, my '19 season did not go how I wanted it to go," Widener said. "And I feel like I've worked really hard, and I just keep building off of everything that feels good and just keep getting more and more confidence."
And so, while Scherzer kept putting up zeroes, Widener just kept going out and focusing on the Nationals hitters.
It was an impressive display that earned Widener a lot of respect from his manager.
"It was the preparation and the hard work and all those tough nights in player development, I'm sure, when he was learning and grinding that prepared him for this day and this situation," Lovullo said. "He's able to really stay in the moment, and we talk about that a lot here. ... So I love the way he steps up on the mound, takes a deep breath and says, ‘Here we go. Let's do this, and it's me against you, and we'll find out who's better.’"